SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 8) -- The youngest professional driver on the National Hot Rod Association circuit -- 20-year-old Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens -- has blazed into Sunday's semifinal round of the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals...
SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 8) -- The youngest professional driver on the National Hot Rod Association circuit -- 20-year-old Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens -- has blazed into Sunday's semifinal round of the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals after a pair of wins over newcomer Mike Trumble Jr. and veteran Mark Pawuk.
Stevens, who already has one national event win and three final round appearances in 1999, will square off against Kurt Johnson in Round 3 with a berth in the finals on the line.
In his quarterfinal win, Stevens rattled the seasoned Pawuk by jumping out to an early lead thanks to a 0.451-second reaction time compared to Pawuk's 0.477 launch. Stevens then went on to post a 7.070-second lap at 196.04 mph while Pawuk labored through a tire-spinning 13.774-second pass at 61.48 mph.
"Who's next?" Stevens said. "I'm ready to go right now. This Valspar car is finally running like it was earlier in the year. It's so exciting, especially since we're winning rounds with our own engine. I know KJ will be tough. He's been the man to beat all weekend and he's got lane choice. But we're awfully pumped up over here in the Valspar pit.
"That quarterfinal race was tough. We were spinning just like Pawuk but at least we already had enough momentum going to take the win. I'll definitely take it."
The first round win over Trumble certainly wasn't easy for Stevens. Trumble started with the advantage of lane choice due to his superior qualifying time and he also got the jump on Stevens at the starting line with a 0.454-second reaction time to Stevens' 0.463-second launch. But the 20-year-old from New Orleans quickly caught the Texan and cruised by for the win, crossing the lights in 7.022 seconds at 196.27 mph to Trumble's partially abandoned 7.790-second, 137.12-mph effort.
"It felt so good to win that first round race," Stevens said. "We've had four first-round losses in a row so that was a big, big win for this team. The run itself was nice and straight and we were happy to get this Valspar Refinish car all the way down the track like that. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) said it looked like I got a little loose down near the finish line but I think it was just me being so thrilled about winning that I was squirming around in the cockpit and beating on the steering wheel. Gosh that felt good."