Richie Stevens wants more from Atlanta Dragway

ATLANTA (May 5) -- Anxious to defend his runner-up finish from last year's visit to Atlanta Dragway, Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens attacked the quarter-mile battlefield today in his award-winning Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird.

ATLANTA (May 5) -- Anxious to defend his runner-up finish from last year's visit to Atlanta Dragway, Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens attacked the quarter-mile battlefield today in his award-winning Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird. Stevens made two of four scheduled qualifying passes at the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals and has an equal amount of work left to do on Saturday.

The 21-year-old driver from New Orleans logged a 6.988-second pass at 196.79 mph in the day's opening session and it held as his best lap of the day. The elapsed time placed Stevens in the No. 14 position out of 34 official entries. While the effort would please most drivers, Stevens wasn't happy.

"I like to get this car solidly in the field on Friday so that we can relax a little and spend Saturday getting ready to race," Stevens said. "Now the pressure picks up because there's no way that time will hold and plus, we want to move up a bunch so we can start Sunday with lane choice. I'm not going to sleep very well tonight."

Atlanta Dragway has been refurbished since the NHRA's last visit in May of 1999 with 700-feet of new concrete added and all the remaining areas ground-out for smoothness.

"It's way better than it was before but the left side is still a little better than the right," Stevens said. "That's the main reason I'm mad because I want to have my choice of lanes by the time Sunday gets here. Who knows, by Sunday the right lane might have enough rubber down that it's the better side. But I still want to have my choice.

"The car ran pretty good in Round 1 on the left side but spun like crazy in Round 2. Then it went left out of the groove and I just lost too much momentum to put up a good number. We have that right lane again in the morning and finish on the left side. I hope we run late tomorrow or that we get some clouds in here or I could be in trouble.

"(Valspar crew chief) Tommy (Utt) will get this place figured out by tomorrow. He's the best there is at matching a car to the conditions so I'm confident we'll move up."

Stevens currently holds the second longest streak of consecutive Race Day appearances with 26. He is currently in fifth place in the Winston championship points standings and could move as high as second with a win at this event.

The elimination rounds of the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, on TNN. They will be rebroadcast at midnight.

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Series NHRA