Memphis: Stephens looking for more

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 3) -- The world of NHRA Winston Championship Drag Racing plays a cruel joke on those that finish a national event in the runner-up position. It takes just as much work, just as much time, and just as much effort to finish...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 3) -- The world of NHRA Winston Championship Drag Racing plays a cruel joke on those that finish a national event in the runner-up position. It takes just as much work, just as much time, and just as much effort to finish second as it does to win, but any final-round loser will tell you the two feelings are polar opposites.

Last year, Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the Valspar Refinish race team came to Memphis Motorsports Park for the annual AutoZone Nationals and deftly cut through a crowded field of pros en route to the fifth final-round appearance of his career.

Stevens clearly had the car to beat heading into the finals, having posted the quickest elapsed time in two of the first three elimination sessions. But when the lights flashed, it was his opponent Mike Edwards that shot off the line first with a .420 to .499 advantage, which he rode to a three-hundredths of a second victory. Stevens took the loss despite having run a superior 6.935-second pass at 197.22 mph to Edwards' 6.976 at 197.59 mph.

"You go through the whole day winning, winning, winning and then all of a sudden you lose," Stevens said. "You cross the finish line and you feel terrible, like the whole day was a waste of time. It really stinks.

"But, after you get a chance to think about it, you realize that just by getting to the finals you've done better than everyone else except the guy you're racing. You've qualified, you've racked up some elimination round wins, and you've earned some points. It's really not so bad. Heck, if someone offered it right now, I'd take a runner-up finish in a heartbeat."

Stevens, a 22-year-old, third-year pro from New Orleans, arrives in Memphis in seventh place in the Winston championship points standings. He trails Troy Coughlin by 55 points and Mark Pawuk by 97 points. Meanwhile, Jim Yates is just 10 points behind Stevens in eighth place. There are just four races left this season, including Memphis.

"It's time to make up ground," Stevens said. "We've had a few chances lately but haven't taken advantage of them. Luckily, the guys around us have stayed where they were also.

"This track has always been lucky for me and it's definitely one of my favorite places to go. It's close to home and I came here a lot with my dad when I was younger and he was racing. I don't really have any more knowledge of this place compared to any other track but I just feel more relaxed and comfortable here. Memphis has my kind of people."

Qualifying highlights will air at 8 p.m. (ET), Saturday, on Speedvision. Same-day coverage of the elimination rounds will begin at 5:30 p.m. (ET), Sunday, also on Speedvision.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Mike Edwards