Houston Richie Stevens Qualifies With Best Lap of the Year

HOUSTON (April 15) -- The 2000 season just keeps getting better and better for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens. After the final two rounds of qualifying for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, ...

HOUSTON (April 15) -- The 2000 season just keeps getting better and better for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens. After the final two rounds of qualifying for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, Stevens, a 21-year-old from New Orleans, emerged with his best qualifying effort of the year while continuing an impressive streak of elimination-round appearances.

Stevens' Friday night pass of 6.897 seconds and 197.59 mph proved to be his quickest of the weekend and placed the two-time national event winner in the No. 4 spot on the qualifying ladder. At the same time, Stevens successfully qualified for his 25th consecutive race, giving him the second longest current string of race day appearances behind five-time Winston champ Warren Johnson, who supplies motors to Stevens.

"We made three good laps in a row this weekend, one of which was our quickest pass of the year, so we're very pumped up here in the Valspar pit," Stevens said. "It feels good to do this at my home track with all my friends here from New Orleans. It also helps a bunch getting your mind set for racing after you've run your best lap of the year."

Opposite Stevens in Sunday's opening round will be Johnson, who finished qualifying in the No. 13 position. Johnson has struggled somewhat this weekend, posting a 6.919-second pass at 200.68 mph as his best lap of the weekend. Due to his superior time, Stevens will have the advantage of lane choice over Johnson but per their engine lease agreement, he will have to use his back-up motor during the lap.

"This is the second race in a row where I have to race Warren with our back-up piece," Stevens said. "It's not the best situation, but we ran quick here with other motors in the past so maybe this will be the time I get him. I know it won't be easy but it'll sure be sweet if we get it done.

"The field is so tight that anyone can win this race. If I can get by Warren we might have a day to remember. Of course, if I get by Warren that'll be enough to make it a day to remember. I feel good about our chances. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) knows this track better than most people out here so I know he'll have us ready to go."

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