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NHRA: Stevens Captures Pro Stock Crown

17 November 1998

POMONA, Calif. - Rookie driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens captured the Pro Stock title of the 34th Annual Winston Finals Sunday at Pomona Raceway. Stevens beat Jeg Coughlin, 6.945 seconds at 198.10 mph to 7.625 seconds at 141.02 mph, to claim the first national event title of his career.

"This is the most unbelievable feeling I've ever felt," Stevens said. "We've been battling all year and to win the last race like this is just the best. I never thought when we started this season with two new cars, two rookie drivers and no information on any track that we'd win an event. I had confidence in my driving but until you actually win, you sort of think in the back of your mind that you might not be able to do it.

"(Team Owner) Shawn Collins and his wife Mary gave me a chance to drive even though I was just a teenager. I'm so glad I was able to show them that thy made the right choice picking me. My crew chief Tommy Utt taught me so much and he and the rest of the crew worked their butts off at ever race to make me look good. This is for them, all of them.

"I have to thank the other drivers in Pro Stock. They all treated me like an equal from the word go and it meant a lot to me. I never heard a mean word about our team or me. The whole NHRA just welcomed us in like we were family. My experience from junior drag racing has really paid off. I was excited all day today but I wasn't that nervous. I think my time in the junior ranks helped me control my emotions.

"It's going to be a great winter now for the whole team and now we all know that hard work pays off. I hope that both Shawn and I can both be in the top 10 next year. He'll have a new car and I just showed that my car is strong so it should be fun."

Stevens, 20, reached the finals by beating Rickie Smith, Kurt Johnson and George Marnell. He drives the Collins Racing Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird. He finished in ninth place of the Winston points standings after winning 16 elimination rounds in 16 races.