'Kid' jumps up ladder, then wins Round 1 race MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 10) -- It seemed impossible just 24 hours ago, but the sun is shining brightly on Memphis Motorsports Park and the elimination sessions for the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals are...
'Kid' jumps up ladder, then wins Round 1 race
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 10) -- It seemed impossible just 24 hours ago, but the sun is shining brightly on Memphis Motorsports Park and the elimination sessions for the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals are underway. Valspar Refinish driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens has already begun to bloom under the improved conditions. He shot up to the top half of the qualifying ladder in this morning's rescheduled final qualifying session and then out-powered John Nobile in the first round of eliminations.
National Hot Rod Association officials had to scramble to get one more round of qualifying in the books this morning after several rain showers forced the cancellation of two of the regular four rounds that usually take place on Friday and Saturday. All the qualified teams then had to work double-time to prepare for the first round of sudden-death racing that began at 1 p.m.
Stevens capitalized on the extra qualifying session, moving from the 10th spot to the fifth position with a weekend-best 6.937-second pass at 196.76 mph.
"We needed that," Stevens said. "Tommy (Utt, crew chief) fixed yesterday's problem that was causing us to stall out in the middle of the runs and we finally got all the way down the strip under power. Who knows what we would have run yesterday if we hadn't had those little mini stalls? It sure was nice to move up to the top half and have lane choice against John."
It was pure horsepower that won the opening elimination lap against Nobile. Stevens was behind at the start, reacting to the lights in a lackluster .501 seconds after Nobile's .465-second launch. But the Valspar Refinish Pontiac was simply too fast and Stevens was able to catch and pass Nobile for the win. The final numbers saw Stevens post a 6.951-second run at 197.05 mph against Nobile's 7.008-second, 196.96-mph pass.
"That was probably the smoothest run of the weekend," Stevens said. "And we needed it to beat John. He did get a big jump on me at the line but I had him reeled in pretty quick. By the time I was in second gear we were side-by-side. Then the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird just slowly pulled away. They say you need a little luck to win a race, well I just used some up. Hopefully I have a little more in the tank."
Stevens, who is currently in fifth place in the Winston championship points standings, will now have lane choice over Steve Schmidt in the quarterfinals. "We could really add up some points today," Stevens said. "Both Jim Yates (who's in fourth place) and Mark Pawuk (sixth place) are already out so I can gain some serious ground if I go a few more rounds. Heck, we're here, we might as well win this thing."