Englishtown: Richie Stevens has career day

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 20) -- It was another rain-soaked day at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park but 21-year-old driving sensation Richie "The Kid" Stevens certainly made the most of it by capturing the No. 2 qualifying position with a...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 20) -- It was another rain-soaked day at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park but 21-year-old driving sensation Richie "The Kid" Stevens certainly made the most of it by capturing the No. 2 qualifying position with a career-best lap of 6.840-seconds at 200.23 mph.

Stevens, the defending champion of the event, patiently waited out the rain and when the time finally came to hit quarter-mile strip he capitalized by taking advantage of a sticky track and cool air conditions to run his record lap. This is the best qualifying effort of the year for Team Valspar.

"We had ideal conditions and a perfect car with a powerful engine," Stevens said. "It made it easy to run a career lap like that. And not to sound conceited but we have room for improvement. I shifted into fourth gear too early and that definitely cost us a little time. If not for my little mistake, that was a great, great lap for our Valspar car.

"The nice thing is that we ran that lap with the back-up motor we got from Mike Thomas and Rick Hickman. Rick did a great job putting that thing together and he should get all the credit. I called him as soon as I got back to the pit to thank him. We started the weekend with that motor because we thought we were going to run Kurt Johnson in the Holley Dominator Duel and, because of our agreement, we wouldn't be able to use the engine Warren (Johnson) normally let's us use. But it still worked out great."

The wet and cold weather forced officials to postpone the Holley Dominator Duel for two weeks. It will now be contested on June 3 during the Prestone Route 66 Nationals in Chicago. The Duel is a special event for the top eight Pro Stock qualifiers from the last year. Stevens has qualified for the event both times he's been eligible.

"It's too bad we couldn't have run it today when we were at our best," Stevens said. "But who knows, we might be running even stronger by then. The entire Valspar crew is doing a great job. Tommy Utt (crew chief) has this car running so strong. He had the clutch set-up so perfectly that I hardly had to steer the car. It was that smooth.

"I feel so good about this team, the car, and the engine situation. Everything is working great. When you run career-bests with your back-up engine you know things are good."

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 Mike Thomas , Kurt Johnson