Pomona: Stevens starts race with steady lap

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 9) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens fought through blustery conditions at Pomona Raceway and placed his award-winning Valspar Refinish Firebird in the No. 12 position on the Day 1 qualifying ladder at the 36th...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 9) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens fought through blustery conditions at Pomona Raceway and placed his award-winning Valspar Refinish Firebird in the No. 12 position on the Day 1 qualifying ladder at the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Stevens ran a 6.982-second pass at 196.67 mph to earn his spot in the field. It was one of only 13 laps recorded in the six-second range.

"It's a good start for us," Stevens said. "It's always nice to roll out of the trailer on opening day and run quick enough to get in the field. That lap was okay but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. The wheelie bars were set a little high and the car rode out of the groove a little to the left. That caused the tires to spin and we lost some time there. We'll be fine though. Tommy and John (Utt, crewmen) will get us dialed in by tomorrow."

The unique schedule of the NHRA Finals calls for just one daytime qualifying session today and Friday with two regular rounds Saturday. Eliminations begin, as usual, Sunday morning. The schedule is adjusted at this track due to local noise ordinances.

"I like it this way because when we're racing for real on Sunday we run during the day," Stevens said. "This schedule really gives us one more lap to tune for Race Day because the data you normally get on a Friday night pass doesn't help much when the sun is out.

"It looks like we're in for a nice cool weekend, which means every lap will be quick. I doubt if that 6.98 we just ran will be good enough to keep us in the field but I'm pretty sure we'll be quicker tomorrow and Saturday. Put it this way, I'll be very surprised if we don't pick it up quite a bit."

Stevens is currently in seventh place in the Winston championship points standings. Barring anything unusual, he will finish the year in the same spot. The 22-year-old from New Orleans has recorded three wins in six final-round appearances as well as three Top 10 finishes in the points during his three-year NHRA career.

"I'd love to finish this year with another win," Stevens said. "I won my first NHRA race right here two years ago and it would be awesome if we could do it again this year."

ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of this race. Qualifying highlights will be broadcast from 10:30-11:30 p.m. (PT), Saturday, Nov. 11. Same-day elimination round coverage will be divided into two segments on Sunday, Nov. 12, with the first round airing from 3-4 p.m. (PT) and the finals airing from 7-9 p.m. (PT). A repeat will follow from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (PT), on Monday, Nov. 13.

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Series NHRA