Richie Stevens returns to Bristol

'Kid' returns to Bristol birthplace BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 30) -- A little over three years ago, a rookie driver nicknamed "The Kid" managed to hoodwink officials of the International Hot Rod Association and was allowed to compete in the Spring ...

'Kid' returns to Bristol birthplace

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 30) -- A little over three years ago, a rookie driver nicknamed "The Kid" managed to hoodwink officials of the International Hot Rod Association and was allowed to compete in the Spring Nationals at Bristol Dragway. As it turned out, the driver won the event -- the first of his fledgling professional career -- despite the fact that he was four months shy of his 18th birthday.

"For the record, I never actually lied about my age," said Richie Stevens, the aforementioned underage driver. "But I think my crew chief might have. Either way, I won that race and I will never forget that moment. That's where my career was born.

Stevens, along with the rest of the top pros of the National Hot Rod Association, will be returning to the newly remodeled Bristol strip July 8-10 for the Inaugural Winston Showdown. The 20-year-old Stevens is assured of a spot in the elimination rounds due to his two NHRA victories over the last 12 national events.

"I'd like to think that I have a nice string of luck going at Bristol," Stevens said. "I got the first win of my pro career there. Now I can win the first NHRA event there since before I was even born and, at the same time, get the first win on the new track.

"Considering that our data book is one of the slimmest ones out there, I'm really psyched about racing on a brand-new track surface. It makes me feel like everybody is starting from the same point. It seems fairer that way."

As usual, Stevens will be piloting his award-winning Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird in Bristol. So far in 1999, Stevens has won 14 of 22 elimination round races, reached the finals of three straight national events and won the Mopar Nationals in New Jersey. He also participated in the Holley Dominator Duel, a special invitation-only event for the sport's top eight qualifiers. Along the way, Stevens also joined the exclusive Speed-Pro 200 mph Pro Stock Club after logging a 200.08-mph pass in Virginia.

"The Valspar Pontiac has been running great all year," Stevens said. "Our goal for this race is to qualify in the top half of the field and to go some rounds and put ourselves in a position to win. We don't have to worry about the points race here, it's just all about showing your stuff and winning some big money.

"I'm honored to be invited to this race and I'm anxious to show that I belong. Bristol has a permanent place in my heart because of what I did there three years ago. Now I'd like to add another great memory of winning the Inaugural Winston Showdown."

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