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NHRA: Stevens Primed for Memorable Sunday

15 November 1998

POMONA, Calif. - Team Collins finished the qualifying rounds of the 34th Annual Winston Finals Saturday with its best machine in the elite field of 16 cars that will battle for the championship on Sunday. Rookie sensation Richie "The Kid" Stevens advanced to Sunday's action for the 16th time this year and appears to be primed for at least a quarterfinal appearance. His teammate, Shawn Collins, fought for a spot but came up short in the two-car team's No. 2 car.

Here's a brief recap of each driver's day at the track.

Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the driver of the Collins Racing Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, put together his best lap of the weekend in Round 4 by tripping the timing lights in 6.929 seconds at 198.54 mph. The pass lifted Stevens to sixth place on the ladder.

The 19-year-old Stevens is scheduled to open Sunday's elimination rounds against Rickie Smith, who qualified with a 6.960-second lap at 197.84 mph on Thursday before wrecking his car Friday. It is unknown if Smith will have a car to race on Sunday. If he does, Stevens will have the additional advantage of lane choice. The two have never raced each other.

"It certainly looks good for us in the first round," Stevens said. "Even if Rickie finds a car he'll be running it for the first time. It feels great to run your best lap right before the finals start. It kind of gives you a nice mental boost. The car has been awesome all weekend and everything appears to be ready for racing. This entire crew has done a great job of getting this car to be so consistent and so fast. I like our chances right now."

Stevens has qualified for 16 races in 1998 and has recorded 12 elimination round wins.

Shawn Collins, the driver of the Collins Racing Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, ran three six-second passes this weekend - the best of which was a 6.982-second run at 197.62 mph - but missed the final cut for Sunday's action by 14-hundredths of a second.

"We did the best we could with this car but it just doesn't work at the same level of the top cars," Collins said. "We finished strong and this has been a great year for us. I was hoping to get in the top 20 of the points standings and we just missed that (Collins finished in 23rd place.) But I really couldn't ask for much more. I wanted to learn how to drive, get some experience and win a round or two this year and that's exactly what I did. We'll have a new car next year and I believe it'll take us to the next level. I can't wait for February."

As a rookie, Collins qualified for four races this year and logged two elimination round wins.