Reading: Stevens continues to pile up the points

READING, Pa. (Sept. 11) -- With just six national events left on the 23-race NHRA schedule, Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the Valspar Refinish race team admits he's doing a little bit of scoreboard watching these days. As the...

READING, Pa. (Sept. 11) -- With just six national events left on the 23-race NHRA schedule, Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the Valspar Refinish race team admits he's doing a little bit of scoreboard watching these days. As the circuit winds it's way into East Central Pennsylvania for the 16th annual Keystone Nationals the 21-year-old pro, who won as recently as six weeks ago in Seattle, is ready to continue his move up the Winston championship points standings.

Stevens is currently in seventh place in the rankings. He's been a part of the Top 10 for 16 of the 17 events contested so far, reaching as high as fifth place and dipping to 11th for one event early in the year. Spurred by the victory in Seattle, his recent surge has continued with multiple elimination round wins in Indianapolis and Englishtown, N.J. Now the third year pro is focused on improving his career-high fifth place finish from '99.

"We've been running good, winning rounds, and gaining points over the last few races," Stevens said, "which seems like it's a lot harder to do towards the end of the year. Everyone is making a final charge now and this Valspar team's run has been pretty nice. We need to keep it up at every race and finish this year ahead of last season."

Heading into Maple Grove Raceway, Stevens trails No. 6 points earner Mark Pawuk by 58 points and No. 5 points earner Troy Coughlin by 59 points. Both men can be caught and passed in one race. Championship points are mostly earned in increments of 20, which are awarded for each elimination round win. Marginal amounts of points are also awarded during qualifying depending on the starting position a driver earns.

"Basically, I need to go three rounds farther then Mark and Troy if I want to pass them up," Stevens said. "It can definitely be done. My real goal right now is to catch (fourth place points earner) Warren Johnson. He's nine rounds (181 points) ahead of me and we only have a total of 24 left this year. It would be great to finish fourth.

"Having all these races in a row over the last few weeks can wear you out but the way we've been running I can't complain. As a driver, you tend to stay in tune better when you don't have any time off. We're on a roll and we're gaining points; I don't want to stop.

I haven't felt this confident in awhile. Everything is going great and I want to ride this wave until November. It all starts in Reading this weekend so I'll have to be ready. I'm going to wear out my practice tree this week."

Same-day television coverage of the 16th annual Keystone Nationals will air from 9:30-11:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Sept. 17, on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson