GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18) -- The youngest Pro Stock winner in the 49-year history of the NHRA successfully qualified for his 23rd consecutive race Saturday at the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals and, by doing so, moved back into the top 10...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18) -- The youngest Pro Stock winner in the 49-year history of the NHRA successfully qualified for his 23rd consecutive race Saturday at the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals and, by doing so, moved back into the top 10 of the Winston championship points standings.
Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the 21-year-old pro from New Orleans who drives the colorful Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, locked down the No. 10 spot in the field with a 6.922-second, 197.83-mph pass. Using Warren Johnson horsepower, Stevens has the second longest qualifying streak in the class, trailing only Johnson himself.
"We're in the field and that's always the No. 1 goal at every race," Stevens said. "We tried to step on it a little today to get in the top half of the ladder but, as it turned out, no one was able to move around much in the standings. The weather just didn't cooperate. It was too windy and the track was a little warm. I though we could sneak up in the last session today but it didn't happen.
"It's great to get in the show again and it's great to get back in the top 10. We were in the top 10 of the points for most of last year and we got used to being a front runner. We were all a little upset that we slipped out of the standings at the last race, even though it was just a few points difference and it's still so early in the year.
"One sure way to stay near the top is to go some rounds tomorrow. That's the plan and I really believe we have a car that's capable of winning it all. To win on Sunday, you have to be consistent. This weekend we've run a 6.92, 6.93, 6.94, and a 6.95. That's pretty consistent. I'm excited."
Stevens, who has two career NHRA victories including one his rookie year when he was 19, will open against No. 7 qualifier Tom Martino, who ran a 6.914-second lap at 199.32 mph. Martino will have the advantage of lane choice. "We ran pretty much the same in both lanes so I'm not real worried about lane choice," Stevens said. "We'll have to be sharp to beat Tommy no matter what lane we're in. I hope things go our way."
Same-day coverage of the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals elimination action will start at 5 p.m. (ET) Sunday on ESPN2.