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NHRA: 'Kid' Handles Smith's 'Tricks'

15 November 1998

POMONA, Calif. - Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the driver of the Collins Racing Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, easily advanced to the quarterfinal elimination round of Sunday's 34th Annual Winston Finals with an interesting win over "Tricky" Rickie Smith. Smith had qualified for Sunday's action with a Thursday afternoon lap of 6.960 seconds 197.84 mph before wrecking his V. Gaines-owned car on Friday. Smith went on to miss the final two qualifying sessions and showed up for today's race in Mark Pawuk's back-up car. Pawuk had loaned Smith the car, which was a legal entry because it had not been driven by anyone else this weekend, with the hope that Smith could beat Stevens. If Stevens had lost to Smith and Pawuk had won his opening-round race, Pawuk would have jumped over Stevens in the Winston Pro Stock points standings.

The entire challenge was rendered moot when Pawuk lost to Tom Martino in the first race of the session and the issue was completely closed when Stevens buried Smith later in the round. Stevens took the win in 6.958 seconds at 198.28 mph to Smith's 7.072 seconds at 196.50 mph. Officially, Stevens will now finish the season in ninth place and Pawuk will finish in 10th place regardless of the remaining races today.

"I'm happy to get the win," Stevens said. "We saw Pawuk lose the first race so I knew all the points business was taken care of. It was a nice boost and it allowed me to concentrate on my race. We had another super-smooth run. That was probably the best run of the weekend as far as how the car felt.

"He tried to play some games with me at the lights but I just did my thing and didn't even worry about it. He staged real quick and I just followed him right in. I knew my car was faster and I was right."

Steven will now face Kurt Johnson in Round 2. Johnson ran a 6.928-second lap at 199.64 to beat John Nobile in the opening round and will have lane choice over Stevens. Johnson has beaten Stevens three times this year.

"I can't move up to eighth place but I can win the race," Stevens said. "K.J.'s been knocking me down this year a bunch of times. I'd like to send him home early this time. He's a great driver and it would be cool to beat him. I'll have to be perfect to win."