Houston ''Kid'' Finally Beats W.J., Reaches Quarterfinals

HOUSTON (April 16) -- It took him 12 tries, but 21-year-old driving sensation Richie "The Kid" Stevens finally beat engine supplier and five-time Winston champion Warren Johnson today before bowing out to Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk in the quarterfinals...

HOUSTON (April 16) -- It took him 12 tries, but 21-year-old driving sensation Richie "The Kid" Stevens finally beat engine supplier and five-time Winston champion Warren Johnson today before bowing out to Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk in the quarterfinals of the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.

The win over Johnson was special because it was accomplished with Stevens' own powerplant under the hood of his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, a stipulation of the team's engine lease agreement with Johnson. Stevens led from start to finish, leaving in .474 seconds and covering the strip in 6.974 seconds at 196.59 mph against Johnson's .502-second start and 6.981-second pass at 197.94 mph.

"It wasn't pretty but we finally got the win light over Warren," Stevens said. "The door broke during the burnout, the shift light didn't work, and the wind was blowing us all over the track. But after 11 tries, we finally beat ol' Warren.

"Beating W.J. is like winning a race in itself. He makes so few errors and loses only a handful of laps every year so to get by him is a huge accomplishment for this Valspar team. Credit (crew chief) Tommy and John Utt and the rest of the part-time crew we had here this weekend with all of our friends and family in from New Orleans helping us out."

Stevens put his Johnson motor back in the car for his second round match-up with Pawuk but it wasn't enough. Despite a great reaction time advantage of .447 seconds to Pawuk's .458-second start, the "Cowboy" was able to track down Stevens and pass him for the win. The final numbers saw Pawuk cross in 6.934 seconds and 198.67 mph in front of Stevens' 6.967-second pas at 196.90 mph.

"I left on him but the wind was really terrible and I was in the lane it was hitting first," Stevens said. "I was all over the place and that must have scrubbed some time off the run. Plus, Mark ran fast so he deserved the win.

"It was still a great weekend. We won the best appearing crew award, which is great for Valspar, and we qualified well and went a round on Sunday. If we can stay consistent like this then another win will come our way. Hopefully it happens very soon. I'm getting hungry for a win."

The elimination rounds of the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, April 16 on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson