St Louis: Richie Stevens out early, but gains ground

ST. LOUIS (June 24) – A top-half qualifying effort at the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals lifted Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens one spot in the Winston championship points standings. The 21-year-old from...

ST. LOUIS (June 24) – A top-half qualifying effort at the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals lifted Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens one spot in the Winston championship points standings. The 21-year-old from New Orleans is now in seventh place, just 75 points shy of a top-five berth.

The move up in the crowded standings and the fact that Stevens qualified for his 32nd consecutive national event – the second longest current streak in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks – were the two high points of the event for Team Valspar. Their No. 6 qualifying effort, courtesy of a 6.975-second, 195.56-mph opening day pass, was squandered in today’s first round of elimination when Stevens fell to Greg Anderson.

The Round 1 battle with Anderson favored Stevens out of the gate. He left the starting line Christmas tree in .434 seconds in front of Anderson’s .448-second launch. But the Valspar Firebird soon ran into serious trouble with tire-spin and by the time Stevens regained control of the car Anderson had inched ahead. At the lights, Anderson took the win in 7.029 second at 195.65 mph compared to Stevens’ 7.094 at 194.97 mph.

“We totally missed the clutch set-up today,” Stevens said. “We made the decision to change back to our motor before today’s race and it was kind of a shot in the dark as far as how we should set up the clutch. We took a chance because we thought we needed to and it just didn’t pay off. We’re going home early again.

“I’m really glad we have a weekend off. Kurt and Warren (Johnson) will have a chance to take our No. 1 motor back to their shop in Georgia and totally tear it down. There must be a problem we can’t find here at the track. We’ve changed everything we could think of and nothing has worked. It’s still bogging at the top end of the track.”

Stevens leases motors from Warren Johnson Enterprises. Johnson has won five world titles with his own motors and made the decision earlier this year to rent powerplants to the Valspar Racing team.

“Everyone knows their power is the best out there,” Stevens said. “It’s carried us to the No. 7 position in the points and we’ve already run our career-best time and speed this year. I know we’ll get this thing fixed and be back on track by the time we get to Bristol in two weeks.”

The elimination rounds of the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals will be broadcast from 10 p.m. to midnight (ET) Sunday and will re-air from 1-3 a.m. (ET) Thursday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson