Stevens' semifinal finish yields top five season POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 14) -- A career year came to a glorious end for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens when the sophomore driver raced through to the semifinals of the...
Stevens' semifinal finish yields top five season
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 14) -- A career year came to a glorious end for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens when the sophomore driver raced through to the semifinals of the 35th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. The third-round ending clinched the No. 5 position in the Winston championship points standings for Stevens, marking a nice improvement over his ninth-place finish a year ago.
"This has been a real good year for us," Stevens said. "We were able to move up nicely in the standings and we won a bunch of rounds (23). Hopefully we can keep on moving up next season. This is great for my dad and Valspar. I couldn't do this without either one of them. Also, my crew chief Tommy Utt was a big part of my success. I thank them all."
The Round 3 race was a good one. Stevens got a jump on rival Jeg Coughlin at the starting line (.423 seconds against Coughlin's .454-second start) but was passed near the finish line with Coughlin registering a 6.884-second lap against Stevens' 6.950-second pass.
"It picked the front end way up and drifted left," Stevens said. "I corrected it real quick and I was still out front when the tires started spinning down track. It was all over at that point."
The 21-year-old Stevens beat No. 1 qualifier Troy Coughlin in the quarterfinals with a huge holeshot advantage at the starting line. Stevens rocketed off the line in .407 seconds (.400 is perfect) against Troy's .441-second start and then held on to win with an elapsed time of 6.980 seconds at 195.76 mph against Troy's partially shut-off pass of 8.856 seconds.
"I was feeling like it was my lucky day at that point," Stevens said. "Troy had been running so quick and I knew I would need a good light to beat him. I hit a .407 and that's pretty close to perfect. I needed that win to get him off my back in the points."
Stevens' first-round win over engine supplier Mike Thomas involved a little bit of luck. Stevens got a slight jump at the light, leaving in .470 seconds against Thomas' .494-second launch. But the two were dead even by the 60-foot light and Thomas was pulling away when the Pennzoil car made a dramatic move towards the retaining wall and immediately slowed. Stevens then went by to take the win in 7.370 seconds against Thomas' 8.495-second mark.
"I got a break there," Stevens said. "I got the jump at the start but he passed me at 60-feet and was pulling away. Then he got loose and dropped back and I went by. I had to shut off at the other end before the finish line because the engine was making a strange noise. But I didn't turn it off until I heard him shut his motor off."