Seattle: Richie "The Kid" Stevens shoots em down

SEATTLE (July 30, 2000) - In a classic Pro Stock battle in the heart of the Great American Northwest, Richie "The Kid" Stevens picked up his third career victory by defeating Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round of the 13th annual...

SEATTLE (July 30, 2000) - In a classic Pro Stock battle in the heart of the Great American Northwest, Richie "The Kid" Stevens picked up his third career victory by defeating Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round of the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals at Seattle International Raceway. It was a dramatic turnaround for the 21-year-old Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird driver after he failed to qualify at the series' last event two weeks ago in Denver. Stevens started eliminations from the No. 5 position by posting an elapsed time of 6.927 seconds at 197.45 mph. Although most of the pre-race attention was focussed on front-runners Ron Krisher, Warren Johnson and Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., Stevens charged to the final round by defeating Bruce Allen in round one, Warren Johnson in round two and Troy Coughlin in round three. That set up a championship showdown on the Seattle strip between Steven's Pontiac Firebird and Coughlin's Oldsmobile Cutlass. Stevens took lane choice into the title bout, but Coughlin launched first and appeared headed for his seventh win of the season. Coughlin's car then bobbled slightly at halftrack and that was all Stevens' Valspar Refinish Firebird needed, crossing the finish line in 7.018 seconds at 195.70 mph. Coughlin followed the Pontiac across the line with an elapsed time of 7.498 seconds at 146.00 mph. "We pulled out our old Valspar Pontiac Firebird after the DNQ in Denver," said Stevens. "We put our own engine in there, just like old times, and it worked. The Valspar Pontiac wasn't the fastest one here but it sure was consistent, even when everyone else was struggling to stay straight. We went from zero to hero in one race. I love it." Stevens, whose last win came over a year ago at Englishtown, was racing in his sixth career final round. At the age of 19, he became the youngest Pro Stock driver in NHRA history to win a national event by driving to victory at the 1998 Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif. That too came at the expense of Jeg Coughlin Jr. Today's victory will be a nice stepping stone for "The Kid" as he prepares for next week's race in Sonoma, Calif. "Everything fell into place today. It's been over a year since we won a race so we were overdue," said Stevens. "I'm so excited for our Valspar team and all of our sponsors like Pontiac and Snap-on Tools. Everyone contributed to this win. We had four consistent runs, and the car just felt great. This is just such an exciting feeling. We used our own engine set-up today, and that is something our whole team is fired up about. We're looking forward to Sonoma and hope we can do it again. I never thought these wins would come as quickly as they have. Ever since that first win in 1998, it's been like a dream come true." A trio of Pontiac Firebird drivers advanced to round two today before exiting Seattle International Raceway. Jim Yates, Ron Krisher and Warren Johnson lost in the quarterfinals; Yates fell to Jeg Coughlin Jr., Krisher to Troy Coughlin and Johnson to Richie Stevens. "It's obvious we have the power back in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird where it needs to be," Yates explained. "We ran really well in round two, but I wasn't real happy with how the tree was run that session. I had to wait 2.6 seconds for the green light. That's just not right. But we ran a 6.97, and for the conditions that's not too bad. We've made some minor changes which has had a major effect on our car. The car seems to be coming around, and we're extremely enthused and looking forward to Sonoma." Tom Martino, Bruce Allen and Mark Pawuk lost in round one; Martino to Jeg Coughlin Jr., Allen to Richie Stevens and Pawuk to Warren Johnson. "We drastically changed our Century 21 Pontiac Firebird before today's first round because we simply weren't happy with its performance in qualifying," Martino said. "Unfortunately, we ran through the clutch almost immediately on our run which pulled us to the left and out of the groove. After that, I knew I wouldn't catch him, so we clicked it off early. "We're going to go testing this Tuesday in Woodburn (Oregon) to see exactly what results came from the changes we made. From the limited information we got from today's run, there are a couple of a things that look real promising. Hopefully we'll be able to gather enough information from our test session to go into Sonoma next weekend with a solid handle on how to make our car respond like it was earlier in the year." Jeg Coughlin Jr. leads the Pro Stock standings in a Cutlass with 1123 points. Ron Krisher is second in a Firebird with 896 points, Warren Johnson is third in a Firebird with 838, Kurt Johnson is fourth in Camaro with 778, Troy Coughlin is fifth in a Cutlass with 740, Mark Pawuk is sixth in a Firebird with 697, Richie Stevens is seventh in a Firebird with 663, Jim Yates is eighth in a Firebird with 617, Tom Martino is ninth in a Firebird with 566 and Bruce Allen is 10th in a Firebird with 542. In Funny Car, Frank Pedregon tried to make it two in a row for the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird team on the Seattle quarter mile. Last year it was Del Worsham who celebrated victory in the winner's circle, but this time it was teammate Pedregon that carried the CSK blue colors into the final round facing off with Winston champion John Force. Pedregon earned his trip to the championship meet by defeating Dean Skuza in round one, Tommy Johnson Jr. in round two and Jim Epler in round three. Against Force, Pedregon's car slowed after smoking the tires to a 6.530 elapsed time at 140.69 mph. Force sprinted to a 4.973 second run at 299.60 mph. "We knew John (Force) could throw any number in the book up there, so we added some blower to the CSK Firebird and hoped that left lane would hold it," Pedregon said. "But it got out there a few hundred feet and blew the tires off. We worked awfully hard this weekend, and pushed our parts, ourselves, and everything to the extreme. We had our last motor in the car for that run. "We'll be fully stocked up again when we get to Sonoma in a few days, but for what we brought with us this weekend, between the two teams, we used up most of our parts to try and get this win. I'm thrilled to say we're runner-up, and I promise we'll get back here again soon and get the win." WWF Pontiac Firebird driver Jerry Toliver lost in round three to John Force. Del Worsham and Tommy Johnson Jr. lost in round two; Worsham to Jim Epler and Johnson to Frank Pedregon. Bruce Sarver, Cruz Pedregon and Al Hofmann lost in round one; Sarver to Jim Epler, Pedregon to John Force and Hofmann to Tony Pedregon. "Much better! It's a different car and a new body and it's paid off a lot," exclaimed Tommy Johnson Jr., who was using the 2000 Pontiac Firebird body for the first time this weekend. "We're going to keep working on it and keep trying to improve the Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird. We're getting faster at each run. The first round is what we needed to be doing and in the second round the track bit us. We were struggling with the 75-minute rule because we weren't used to that since we haven't been in many rounds. "This was a morale booster for the whole team. Everybody's emotions were getting pretty down, and qualifying was a big boost and then to take out the number-one qualifier is a huge morale boost, so everybody's attitude is up a little bit. It was getting tough for everyone to stay positive but today really helped out a lot." Jerry Toliver's WWF Pontiac Firebird is still on top of the Funny Car standings with 1084 points. John Force is second in a Mustang with 1052 points, Tony Pedregon is third in a Mustang with 848, Ron Capps is fourth in a Camaro with 839 and Jim Epler is fifth in a Camaro with 738. Del Worsham is in eight place in a Firebird with 593 points and Al Hofmann is 10th in a Firebird with 538. In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan advanced to round two before losing to David Grubnic. The race was won by Gary Scelzi who grabbed his sixth victory of the year by defeating Doug Kalitta in the finals. Scelzi's dragster covered the quarter mile in 4.711 seconds at 303.98 mph, but Kalitta was right there at the close with a 4.789 elapsed time at 291.19 mph. Gary Scelzi is in first place in the Top Fuel standings with 1147 points. Tony Schumacher is in second place with 1024 points, Larry Dixon is third with 994, Joe Amato is fourth with 859 and Kenny Bernstein is fifth with 857. MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is seventh in the standings with 670 points. The next stop on the schedule is the 13th annual Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals on August 4 - 6 at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, August 5, beginning at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, August 6, starting at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.