Topeka: Bumpy ride doesn't slow Stevens

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 29) – Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens and his award-winning Valspar Refinish crew continued to show the consistency that earned them a national event win just five races ago in Seattle during today’s opening...

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 29) – Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens and his award-winning Valspar Refinish crew continued to show the consistency that earned them a national event win just five races ago in Seattle during today’s opening two rounds of qualifying at the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals.

Stevens ran a pair of impressive laps down Heartland Park Topeka’s refurbished quarter-mile strip, the best of which was a 6.973-second effort at 195.53 mph. The elapsed time earned the 22-year-old from New Orleans the No. 9 position on the provisional race day ladder with tomorrow’s two rounds of qualifying remaining.

“We’ve been on a great streak of races where this Valspar Firebird car is running right there with the best cars in the world,” Stevens said. “It’s great for us. Today was no different and we were able to get off to a nice start with two good laps.

“I’m happy with what we did today but I still think we have a lot of room to improve. There is a big bump in the concrete-to-asphalt transition area and it goes all the way across the track because it got me during both laps. Normally, this car skims right over spots like that but this one is nailing me and it’s definitely cutting into our times.

“The biggest problem is that the bump is right at a spot where I’m changing gears. I think that’s why the car’s breaking traction for a second right when I hit that bump. Hopefully the track will continue to get better the more and more these fuel cars go down. That usually helps smooth it out.”

The Advance Auto Parts Nationals is the 19th of 23 national events on the 2000 NHRA schedule. Stevens hopes to make a charge up the standings between now and the season-ending NHRA Finals in mid-November. He is currently in the seventh position in the standings and could advance as high as fifth place this weekend.

“I’d like to gain some ground in the points for sure,” Stevens said. “It’s a little hotter than we were expecting right now but if we can get it to cool down just a touch for tomorrow we can move up. It’s important to get in the top half of the field so we can start race day with lane choice. Then it’s just a matter of going rounds and putting ourselves in a position to win the race.”

Same-day television coverage of the elimination rounds of the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will air Sunday on TNN from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT).

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