NHRA: Stevens squeaks by KJ in Round 2
15 November 1998POMONA, Calif. - Rookie of the Year candidate Richie "The Kid" Stevens drove his Collins Racing Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird away from Kurt Johnson in Sunday's quarterfinal round of the 34th Annual Winston Finals. The win redeems the three losses Stevens has suffered at the hands of Johnson this season and advances the 19-year-old to a semifinal contest with George Marnell. Stevens led the extremely tight race from the start, where he got the jump on Johnson (0.447 seconds to 0.461 seconds), all the way through the finish-line timers. He won the race in 6.959 seconds at 197.06 mph to Johnson's 6.965-second lap at 198.71 mph.
"I saw him next to me the whole way down," Stevens said. "I left on him by a little bit but I saw him right away. I knew it was going to be close. I've lost a lot of races this year by a fraction of a second so I know how far a thousandths of a second looks like at the far end of the track. This time, I could tell I had him.
"I'm absolutely buzzing right now. We've got Marnell in the next round, but our car has had his car covered by a tenth of a second all weekend. Plus I got lane choice, which can't hurt. We're halfway there. I've got to stay focused to pull off a win. We have to do this one step at a time."
This will mark the first meeting between Marnell and Stevens.