Richie Stevens Seattle/Sonoma Preview

SEATTLE (July 27) -- Most drag racers consider the National Hot Rod Association's back-to-back stops in Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. pivotal to the success or failure of their season. Many believe that over the course of two weeks, a team's entire...

SEATTLE (July 27) -- Most drag racers consider the National Hot Rod Association's back-to-back stops in Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. pivotal to the success or failure of their season. Many believe that over the course of two weeks, a team's entire season can literally be made or lost.

Twenty-year-old Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the pilot of the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, takes this thought process one step further. "These two events are absolutely critical," he said. "This is do-or-die racing for me."

The important fortnight begins Thursday through Sunday at Seattle International Raceway with the 12th annual running of the Prolong Super Lubricants Nationals. Then, three days later, the entire process will be repeated Aug. 6-8 deep in the heart of the California Wine Country with the 12th annual Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway.

Stevens remains hopeful that during these two events he can recapture the magic he experienced earlier in the year when he reached three final rounds in a row and captured his first win of the 1999 season. That incredible streak saw the New Orleans native shoot up the Winston championship points standings into the No. 3 position.

Since his win, four of five races, including the invitation-only Winston All-Star Showdown in Bristol, Tenn., have ended in disappointing first-round dismissals.

"We haven't done anything I'm proud of since our win," Stevens said. "The very next event after that victory in New Jersey the No. 1 race motor blew up. Since then, we've been using a back-up engine and it just doesn't have the power of the other one. Obviously, that's been the problem.

"We rent motors and we just have to wait for our good one to be repaired. We hoped it would have been done by now, but it's not. It's a bummer. My sponsors are wondering what's happening. They haven't seen my car on TV lately. They expect results and so does everyone on this team that's working their butts off to make us win.

"No matter what, we have to find a way to go rounds in Seattle and Sonoma. Every round we survive means 20 more points and at this point, 20 points seems like a bunch. They sure add up quick as the year goes along."

Stevens is currently in fifth place in the points standings. Aside from his victory in New Jersey, he has logged 14 elimination round wins in 11 events.

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