Denver: 'Kid' wants to turn consistency into wins

DENVER (July 12) – The summer break is over for the world’s fastest drivers on the NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit and 21-year-old Pro Stock pilot Richie “The Kid” Stevens, the youngest winner ever in his class, is anxious to get...

DENVER (July 12) – The summer break is over for the world’s fastest drivers on the NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit and 21-year-old Pro Stock pilot Richie “The Kid” Stevens, the youngest winner ever in his class, is anxious to get back to work. Currently in seventh place in the Winston championship points standings and riding a 32-race streak of consecutive elimination-round appearances, Stevens certainly has what it takes to win it all in his Valspar Pontiac, now he hopes to show it on the track.

Stevens will get that chance this weekend when the 24-event tour arrives at Bandimere Speedway for the 22nd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. The race is the first of three events in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif., which the racers call the “West Coast Swing.” A driver’s performance over this stretch of races usually sets the tone for the remainder of the season.

“Last year we had a great run of three races in Virginia, Atlanta, and Englishtown, N.J., where we went to three finals in a row and won a race,” Stevens said. “Those three races basically made our whole season and we ended up finishing in the top five. This year I’d like to have the same run of luck on the West Coast Swing.”

Stevens has had a remarkable season in 2000, albeit bereft of wins. He’s won 10 elimination-round races, reset his career-best elapsed time and top speed, and qualified in the top half of the field at the majority of the races. Still, while he’s been consistent, he’s yet to hit the jackpot and score his third career win.

“Just qualifying and winning a round or two at every race is good,” Stevens said, “but we’re ready for a win. We have the power and the car to do it, we just need to fine-tune our set-up and take that final step.

“Denver will be a good test. It’s a little screwy because we’re at such a high altitude that everything slows down a bunch. Your shift points are off because it takes a lot longer to get up to speed. On the other hand, you have more time each lap so you can really zero in on what you need to do to have a perfect run. It’s harder to race there because you have to set-up the car totally different but Team Valspar will be ready for action. We all know we’re close to victory lane. I think the West Coast Swing might be our time.”

Several hours of this race will be broadcast on ESPN2. Qualifying highlights will air from 10 p.m.-midnight, Saturday, with a repeat from 4:30-6:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday morning. The first round of eliminations will be shown from 4:30-5:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday with the final three rounds shown later that evening from 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (ET). A repeat of the elimination rounds will air from 4-6 a.m. (ET) Tuesday.

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Series NHRA