Gainesville: Richie Stevens preview

Richie Stevens Jr. On A High Heading To Gainesville GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2005) - Richie Stevens Jr. is still pinching himself. Is this for real or is it a dream? After sitting out the majority of two seasons of Pro Stock competition to...

Richie Stevens Jr. On A High Heading To Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2005) - Richie Stevens Jr. is still pinching himself. Is this for real or is it a dream? After sitting out the majority of two seasons of Pro Stock competition to take care of his family business while his dad recuperated from open-heart surgery, he's back in the fold, driving for the largest team in NHRA pro history and sitting close to the top of the world.

The top of the world for Stevens, who drives the Team Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Stratus R/T that is tuned by legendary Bob Glidden, would be the points lead in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series' Pro Stock division. He's not greedy, however. He'll take continuing to set records and winning a few races this season for Don Schumacher Racing.

In only his second Pro Stock race since 2003, he demolished both ends of the class track record (6.735/205.35) at Firebird International Raceway while snagging his second career pole position. He advanced to the second round in a very tough category, then lost to his teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.

The New Orleans native moved into eighth in the points, just 76 out of first, and is ready to attack the third race of the year, this weekend's NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

"Were coming off of a great result in Phoenix and it feels good," said Stevens. "Jeggie had a semifinal finish, so we're definitely going in the right direction for the team.

"Doing as well as we have so far, I feel it can only get better. We have done a lot of testing, and results have come from that and hopefully they will continue.

"I don't doubt there will be improvement," he continued with confidence. "We'll be testing this week at South Georgia Motorsports Park and we'll carry what we learn down to Gainesville. I feel that if we can get both cars qualified in the top five and go some rounds at every race, we'll definitely be in the winner's circle pretty soon. I don't doubt it a bit.

"Gainesville is one of my favorite places to go," added Stevens, although there's nothing to brag about as far as results go. "I've always had a good time here, but I haven't had the best record here. It's a fun race, a lot of fans come out for it. Hopefully the weather is nice. It's usually pretty good.

"The season has started off great, I couldn't be happier. Yeah, it would have been nice to have won a race, but I don't think that it's that far out of reach for us."

Reigning two-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson has stumbled so far this season, along with his teammate Jason Line. But Stevens predicts they, as well some others, will be back in the hunt as arguably one of the most competitive Pro Stock seasons continues.

"I think you'll see Greg turn around," said Stevens, who has four national-event Pro Stock wins to his credit. "The first two races he kind of struggled a little bit. He had some mishaps, had some bad luck, but I think you'll see his camp turn around. Dave Connolly is also going to be right there the whole season, and Warren and Kurt Johnson have shown to be pretty strong.

"I tell you, Allen Johnson (Phoenix winner and points leader) ran really well out there in the first two races. So, we're going to have a lot of competition tightening up as we progress into the middle of the season. There are not going to be many people that you can really count out. Ron Krisher is running good. It seems like everybody's kind of gotten their acts together. There is definitely going to a be a variety of different winners this year as there were in the first two races."

Mopar has come on strong this season, with Allen Johnson's win and Stevens' No. 1 qualifying record. When asked why, Stevens responded: "It's a lot of hard work on our side. Bob (Glidden) is putting in his hours at the shop and he continues to do that. Testing has definitely gained us some knowledge. We are definitely moving in the right direction.

"I'm sure Allen Johnson and his team have put in a lot of research and development on their engine program. Larry Morgan is right in there, and so is V. Gaines. All the Dodges seem to be on the positive side: they're all running well. I think we'll definitely see Mopar in the winner's circle quite a few times. They already proved they can do it when Allen Johnson won at Phoenix."

Workaholic Glidden never ceases trying to improve the horsepower on Stevens' and Coughlin's Mopars. "Just like money, you can never have enough horsepower," smiled Stevens, "so Bob will still be in the shop fighting to get every little bit he can. Hopefully that will put us over the top and make us that much better than the competition."


* With dad Richie Stevens Sr. owns Stevens Collision Center in New Orleans

* Posted his career-best ET and speed in Phoenix this year: 6.735/205.35

* Has longtime relationship with associate sponsor Valspar

* Capped off rookie season in 1998 with a victory in his first final-round appearance (Pomona 2)

* Is youngest Pro Stock driver to win a national event, at 20-one month, in 1998

* Has four wins in seven final rounds, two No. 1 qualifiers to his credit

* In 1999 he became the eighth member of the Speed Pro 200-mph Pro Stock Club with a 200.08 mph run in Richmond, Va.

* Competed in Roy Hill's Pro Mod car in 2004, with a semifinal finish at the U.S. Nationals his best result


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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Richie Stevens Jr. , Kurt Johnson , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Bob Glidden , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Don Schumacher , Dave Connolly