Riding hot streak, 'Kid' ready for Memphis MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 5) -- Coming off the first No. 1 qualifying effort of his professional career, 21-year-old Pro Stock upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens has to be considered one of the early favorites...
Riding hot streak, 'Kid' ready for Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 5) -- Coming off the first No. 1 qualifying effort of his professional career, 21-year-old Pro Stock upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens has to be considered one of the early favorites to claim the title of this weekend's 12th annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park. The event starts Thursday and continues through Sunday.
Stevens, who has driven his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird to one national-event win, three final-round appearances and 18 elimination-round victories this season, broke a streak of 21 races in which either Warren or Kurt Johnson claimed the pole of a national event. The impressive feat occurred in Topeka, Kan. over the weekend when Stevens topped the qualifying field of the Advance Auto Parts Nationals with a 6.888-second pass at 198.44 mph.
"We finally got things back on track like they were earlier this year when we were winning rounds every race," Stevens said. "We got our No. 1 engine back the way we like it and the Valspar car responded. That motor and this car just get along real well. It was great to win the pole. I just wish we had made the effort pay off on Race Day."
Unfortunately for the Valspar crew, excessively cold temperatures that eventually delayed the race until Monday combined with his opponent Mike Edwards' best lap of the race weekend spelled doom for Stevens in the first round of the Topeka event, spoiling his chance for a win. For his part, Edwards went on to win the event. His closest race came against Stevens.
"I hope we pick up right where we left on Saturday night in Topeka," Stevens said. "We were No. 1 and everyone was pumped. It'd be great to have another strong showing in Memphis like that and there is no reason to think we won't duplicate the effort we had in Kansas.
"I love Memphis. (Stevens was the No. 3 qualifier in 1998.) We ran well last year there and my dad always used to race there when I was younger. I have some good memories there.
"For our team this is the start of three races in a row where we will have a bunch of family and friends at the races cheering us on because we'll be close to home. Plus, all the Valspar folks are coming in to watch the race. It should be a great weekend. Hopefully I can make it fun for everyone with another strong performance."
A native of New Orleans, Stevens still holds down fifth place in the Winston championship points standings, extending a streak of seven straight races in that position. He has been as high as third place and as low as 21st place this year. Since he and his father Richie Sr. assumed ownership of the Valspar Refinish team in late February, Stevens has not missed an elimination session in 16 consecutive national events.