Stevens first Duel 'semi' successful ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 22) - Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens continued to make his ever-growing presence felt in the National Hot Rod Association Saturday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. This...
Stevens first Duel 'semi' successful
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 22) - Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens continued to make his ever-growing presence felt in the National Hot Rod Association Saturday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. This time Stevens turned heads by driving his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird into the semifinals of the prestigious Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel before bowing out to four-time world champion Warren Johnson.
The race marked Stevens' initial appearance in the invitation-only special event that includes only the top eight qualifiers from the last 21 races. As a sophomore driver, this year's Holley Dominator Duel marked the first one Stevens could actually qualify for and it didn't take long for the New Orleans native to show he belonged with the sports' best. He beat Pennzoil driver Mike Thomas in the first race of the day, thereby earning the right to advance to his semifinal showdown with reigning Winston champ Johnson. Unfortunately, just as he has on four other occasions in his career, Johnson bettered his younger counterpart by recording a 6.935-second lap at 200.68 mph to Stevens' 6.987-second pass at 198.93 mph.
"The car died right as I pre-staged," Stevens said. "I got it restarted but it threw me off and you just can't have any mistakes at all against WJ. I'm still very proud to have qualified for the event and to have won a round my first time out. I know it's a real honor to participate and I give all the credit to my dad and the Valspar crew. This day was for them. They earned it as much if not more than I did. Next time around I'll have to do better and reward everyone with a win."
Stevens, 20, beat Thomas, who supplies Team Valspar with their engines, in Round 1 of the Dominator Duel despite the fact that Thomas had earned the advantage of lane choice. Stevens led the race from start to finish and posted a 6.952-second lap at 198.70 mph to Thomas' 7.021-second pass at 198.03 mph.
"It was a nice bonus for us to be the first pair out because it sort of took away Mike's lane choice advantage," Stevens said. "Either way the Valspar car ran extremely well and went straight down the track just like it has for the last five races. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) and the rest of the crew have the car running so consistent now. I think that's why we've been doing so well."
Two of the three laps Stevens recorded on the day counted as regular qualifying runs for the 30th Annual Mopar Parts Nationals. But when the dust settled his Friday night lap of 6.893 seconds at 199.32 mph turned out to be his best of the weekend and it earned him the No. 2 spot in the field. He will now open Sunday's elimination action against Larry Nance who qualified in the 15th position after recording a lap of 6.960 seconds at 197.57 mph.