Pomona: 200-mph lap puts Stevens in sixth place

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 1) -- Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens’ first lap of the 2001 National Hot Rod Association championship drag racing season was one of his best ever, placing the 22-year-old from New Orleans ...

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 1) -- Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens’ first lap of the 2001 National Hot Rod Association championship drag racing season was one of his best ever, placing the 22-year-old from New Orleans comfortably in the field of the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals in the No. 6 position. Stevens reached a top speed of 200.35 mph during a 6.882-second lap, his fastest pass ever in NHRA competition.

In all, 30 Pro Stock cars attempted laps today. The No. 1 qualifier is Bruce Allen, who posted a 6.828-second lap at 201.16 mph. This was the first race for Stevens in his brand new Pontiac Grand Am, which replaces the Pontiac Firebird he drove during the first three years of his young career.

“We’re still learning a lot about this car,” Stevens said. “So I’m very pleased to come out and run a lap like that right out of the trailer. Not a bad start at all. We’ll definitely take this and learn from it and try to get better.

“I know there is a lot of room for improvement, which is very encouraging. We were heavy on the clutch and I shifted (at) too high (an RPM.) I know that hurt our time. Plus, I was in the right lane and the left side definitely looked better for the Pro Stock cars. I don’t know if I could have caught Bruce, but we could’ve gone a 6.84 if everything had gone right that time. I’m still getting used to this car but I like it a lot already.”

Stevens’ previous best top speed was a 200.23-mph pass he recorded last May 20 in Englishtown, N.J. He has only eclipsed the 200-mph mark on two occasions before today. “How about that top speed?” he said. “That’s very cool. I feel real good about this car and the horsepower these engines are making right now.

“It’s good to start the first race of the year and look at the ladder and see that our Valspar Refinish Pontiac Grand Am is right there with all the top cars. Especially since I know we have room to get better.”

Qualifying for the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals continues Friday at 2 p.m. Several hours of the race will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2. Qualifying highlights will be shown from 9:30-11:30 p.m., Saturday, on ESPN2. The elimination rounds will air from 8-9 p.m., Sunday, on ESPN, with a rebroadcast from 11 p.m.-12 a.m., Sunday, on ESPN2.

-Robert Geiger

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Allen