Memphis: Stevens a big part of history

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 7) -- After capturing the provisional pole of the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals Friday evening, Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens slipped slightly to fourth place by the time the elimination ladder...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 7) -- After capturing the provisional pole of the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals Friday evening, Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens slipped slightly to fourth place by the time the elimination ladder was set late Saturday. But the 22-year-old upstart from New Orleans was pleased to be one of the top cars in the quickest field ever assembled and now looks for big things on race day.

Stevens best run, a 6.836-second pass at 198.96 mph, is the sixth best pass in NHRA history and awards him lane choice over No. 13 qualifier Mark Osborne, who ran a weekend-best pass of 6.856 seconds at 198.82 mph Saturday. Stevens' stellar lap came on Friday and allowed his Valspar team to experiment a bit during today's action.

"Today went pretty good," Stevens said. "We came out this morning and decided to take it easy to see what the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird would do in the right lane. We ran a 6.87, but got a little loose in the middle of the track, and that hurt us a bit on elapsed time.

"Tonight we came out ready to go for it since we had nothing to lose. Scott (Geoffrion) was a couple of cars ahead of us and threw up the quickest run in history so we thought we were looking pretty good. I left the starting line so hard and it picked the front end up as high as it's ever been. We had our best 60-foot time of the weekend (1.0 seconds), but it drove over to the wall, got out of the groove, and I had to bring it back. I shifted it a little too early, and it knocked the clutch out of it but we still went 6.89.

"We had four good passes this weekend and I feel pretty comfortable going into tomorrow. We have lane choice, which will be important, but we have a tough customer in Mark Osborne so we'll have our work cut out for us."

Interestingly, Stevens had the best outing of his three-year career with a borrowed motor under the hood. First, the team's primary motor was damaged in the opening round. Then the crew discovered that their back-up piece was also unusable. With their backs against the wall, Stevens asked for and was lent a motor from fellow competitor Ron Krisher.

"We got the motor from Ron an hour before we ran that lap on Friday night," Stevens said. "Then we tried to fix our motors but they both need to go to the shop. Thankfully, Ron said we could use his for the rest of the weekend. I can't tell you how much we appreciate what Ron, his wife Karen, his team, and the guys at the engine shop have done for us. I can promise you I will never forget this."

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

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Series NHRA