Topeka Richie Stevens Qualifying Review

'Kid' drives Valspar car to pole position TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 2) -- For the first time in exactly one year, the Pro Stock pole at a National Hot Rod Association event will not be occupied by someone named Johnson. Instead, 21-year-old driver...

'Kid' drives Valspar car to pole position

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 2) -- For the first time in exactly one year, the Pro Stock pole at a National Hot Rod Association event will not be occupied by someone named Johnson. Instead, 21-year-old driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens will occupy the coveted spot in his striking Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird.

Since the NHRA's 1998 visit to Heartland Park Topeka for last year's annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals either reigning Winston champ Warren Johnson or his son Kurt have captured the 21 available poles. An impressive streak that ended when Stevens scorched HRP's strip Saturday morning with a 6.888-second strike at 198.44 mph.

Stevens, from New Orleans, then was forced to watch as the entire 33-car field took its shots at supplanting him from the No. 1 position in Saturday's fourth and final round of qualifying. But the time held and Stevens earned his first NHRA pole.

"I had my fingers crossed all the way through that last session," Stevens said. "I just signed a two-year deal with Valspar and I really wanted to give them the pole. I'm so glad it held up. This car is running great right now and I think we can really make some noise tomorrow. If we keep putting up numbers like we did today, we'll be tough to beat.

"I credit two things for that lap. First, my (crew chief) Tommy Utt made a great last-second change to the transmission that helped us match the Valspar car to the conditions on the track. Second, the Finish Line motor I got from Mike Thomas is stout. It made my job easy.

"I'm so happy for everyone on my team. We said coming in to this race that we needed to qualify better so that we would be in a position to win on Race Day. You can't do any better than we did. Now I've got to take care of business tomorrow."

Sunday's opening round coverage can be seen from 2-4 p.m. EST on Speedvision. FOX Sports will then carry the final two hours of elimination action from 5-7 p.m. EST.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas