Englishtown Rain dampens Stevens'' opening day

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 19) -- Intermittent rain showers turned the opening day of the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals into a marathon of waiting as professional teams tried to get their first two qualifying laps in the books. In the...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 19) -- Intermittent rain showers turned the opening day of the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals into a marathon of waiting as professional teams tried to get their first two qualifying laps in the books. In the end, most drivers - including defending event champion Richie "The Kid" Stevens - had to settle for one qualifying pass down Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's strip.

Stevens, a 21-year-old Pro Stock driver from New Orleans, was happy to log his pass of 6.974-second at 199.02 mph, which placed him 15th in the field of 16 drivers that have successfully qualified for the race. But he couldn't mask his disappointment at not being able to adequately prepare for Saturday's special event race - the Holley Dominator Duel - which pits the top eight Pro Stock qualifiers from the last year against one another for a $50,000 prize.

"Today was very frustrating," Stevens said. "Not just for us but for everyone out here. I wanted to have this Valspar Pontiac totally ready to go for the Duel and for the regular race. But the rain just wouldn't let up. At least we're all dealing with the same problems.

"I have Kurt Johnson in the opening round of the Duel and he's always a tough competitor. He did struggle today though, so maybe we'll have a slight edge tomorrow. I know the other seven guys in the Duel would say the same thing but I wish we could be a little better prepared for the race. You just want to go into a big money deal like that with your car totally dialed in.

"We'll have to rely a lot on (crew chief) Tommy Utt's experience, which is okay by me. That man knows how to match a car to the track and the conditions better than anyone I know. It might be wet this weekend but it's also cold, which helps us Pro Stock guys out a lot. If the rain stays away, we'll see some awesome times tomorrow."

The opening round lap of tomorrow's Dominator Duel will also count as Steven's second qualifying attempt for this weekend's regular race. Should he win his first-round race, the second-round lap will count as his third and final qualifying attempt.

Television coverage of this race begins with qualifying highlights from 7-9 p.m. (ET), Saturday, on ESPN2. Same-day coverage of Sunday's elimination rounds will be broadcast from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) with a rebroadcast at 3-4 a.m. (ET) on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson