Local knowledge has ''Kid'' fired-up for Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10) -- Popular Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the 21-year-old drag racing sensation from New Orleans, is one very excited young man as he heads to Gainesville Raceway March 16-19 for the 31st...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10) -- Popular Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the 21-year-old drag racing sensation from New Orleans, is one very excited young man as he heads to Gainesville Raceway March 16-19 for the 31st Mac Tools Gatornationals. But it's not youthful exuberance or "Spring Break fever" that has him fired up. Instead, it's the veteran-like familiarity he has with one of the NHRA's quickest and fastest racetracks.

"One of the hardest things for our team has been trying to figure out the various tracks around the country," said Stevens, who is just two races into his third season on tour. "Most of the guys I race against have been to every track 10, 15, 20 times before and they've seen every type of conditions imaginable. We've had to learn as we go, like all new teams.

"But Gainesville Raceway is different. I have a whole book of data just on this track because we used to do all of our testing here. I know what you can and can't do, even if it's hot, cold, damp, humid, whatever happens, we've seen it before. That's a big help."

What will be new to Team Valspar during this trip to Central Florida is the engine under the hood. During the off-season Stevens signed an exclusive agreement with five-time Winston champion Warren Johnson to use one of his powerplants this year.

"It's taken us a little time to get used to Warren's power," said Stevens, who is currently 11th in the Winston championship points standings. "It really picks up from half-track on and just pulls you through the finish line. It's awesome but we haven't quite matched our Valspar Pontiac to it just yet. When we do, watch out, we will be flying.

"My dad (Richie Stevens Sr., team owner) and Tommy (Utt, crew chief) have talked about switching to our new car at this race. It's the latest generation 2000 model Jerry Bickel Firebird and it seems like it's more aerodynamic, which we think will really help when we're at top speed with this new horsepower.

"We've got some testing to do before we make the final decision. Either way I think we'll be in good shape. Our friend Don Beverly drove the new car to the No. 2 qualifying position last October in Houston and that track is just like Gainesville. With a new car and all the data we have for this track, I'm fired up about this race. I'm ready to win."

Qualifying highlights of the 31st annual Gatornationals will be broadcast at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday on ESPN2. Same-day coverage of the elimination action will start at 5 p.m. (ET) Sunday, also on ESPN2.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson