St. Louis: First win of 2000 on Richie Stevens' mind

ST. LOUIS (June 20) – By most accounts Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the award winning Valspar Refinish Racing Team is having a fantastic year. He’s been in the top 10 of the Winston points standings all season, he’s been...

ST. LOUIS (June 20) – By most accounts Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the award winning Valspar Refinish Racing Team is having a fantastic year. He’s been in the top 10 of the Winston points standings all season, he’s been benefiting from Warren Johnson horsepower for 11 races, he’s lowered his career-best elapsed time and improved his top speed to record heights, and he’s successfully stretched his elimination-round appearances to 31 consecutive races, the second longest streak of it’s kind.

So why is the 21-year-old upstart from New Orleans a little more anxious than usual as the NHRA Championship Drag Racing circuit arrives in St. Louis for the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway? The answer is very simple: “I haven’t won yet this year,” Stevens said.

“Winning a race is about the only thing we haven’t done this year,” said the third-year pro, who claimed wins in each of his first two seasons. “We are going rounds at nearly every race, which is what you need to do to stay in the hunt. But when you go for a long time without a win it starts to wear on you.

“A victory at this level of drag racing does so much for the team. You realize all the hard work and long hours are worthwhile. It’s a big boost for everyone on the crew and all of our sponsors who have been so good to us over the past few years. I know we’re going to get one or two wins this year. I just hope it happens soon.”

If Stevens tastes victory in St. Louis it will be under the lights. The entire race is contested in the evening hours to help racers and fans alike avoid the extreme heat that can hit the area during this time of the year. Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 7:45 p.m. Thursday and Friday, while the elimination rounds begin at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“I like to run at night,” Stevens said. “I’ve done some of my best racing under the lights. I’m not really sure why. I think I’m just more relaxed later in the day and it helps me when I climb into the car. Hopefully, mixing it up like this will bring us some more luck. Truthfully, we can’t complain about much this year but I sure wouldn’t mind racing four rounds on Saturday and being in the hunt for another win. It’s time.”

The unique format of the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals calls for a slightly altered television schedule. Qualifying highlights will be shown on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. (ET) Saturday, with a repeat broadcast from 3-5 a.m. early Sunday morning. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 10 p.m. to midnight (ET) Sunday and will re-air from 1-3 a.m. (ET) Thursday, June 29.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson