New Orleans native Richie Stevens has fled Hurricane Isaac to come to Indianapolis and compete in drag racing’s biggest event, just as he escaped Hurricane Katrina seven years ago to the day to do the same.
He was the Pro Stock class runner-up in those 2005 U.S. Nationals. This week, he’s trying to establish order with his whirlwind opportunity to slide from the Big Easy to the “Big Go,” the nickname for the National Hot Rod Association’s talent showcase.
We are definitely short on testing. This will be my first time in an NHRA Pro Stock car since December. However, I was the last one to drive it and it was crazy-fast in December, so let’s see!
As if that weren’t a delicious enough plot to keep an eye on this Labor Day weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway, Stevens will be driving a car he leased from points leader Allen Johnson and possibly racing against firecracker-hot fiancée Erica Enders.
They’re the two most dominant Pro Stock drivers on the historic grounds on Indianapolis’ West Side, having combined to dominate the action for at least the past six races. And not only is Stevens receiving help from them this weekend, but he also has the expertise of car builder Rick Jones and his American Drag Racing League hot Pro Modified shoe son, Rickie Jones, in his pit.
Moreover, he’ll get some advice from Johnson’s crew chief Mark Ingersoll and Enders’ counterpart, Dave Connolly, along with Adam Lambert from Penske Shocks.
Stevens’ networking history provides a touch of déjà-vu on the racetrack, too. The last time he was behind the wheel of an Allen Johnson Pro Stock car, he clocked the class’ quickest pass ever, a 6.466-second elapsed time. But because it happened during preseason testing it isn’t an official record of any sort.
“I haven’t driven that car since December, while Allen was recovering from bicep surgery,” Stevens said. “We are definitely short on testing. This will be my first time in an NHRA Pro Stock car since December. However, I was the last one to drive it and it was crazy-fast in December, so let’s see!”
Stevens is No. 2 in the standings, chasing the Extreme Pro Stock championship, in the American Drag Racing League. He said he’ll enjoy competing with familiar company again after leaving a full-time NHRA gig in 2007.
“It’s great because there is no pressure,” he said. “This is our off weekend, then we head to Memphis as soon as we are done in Indy. All these guys (and girl) have the pressure of the Countdown, but I’m just here to give it my best shot at the race and get some well-deserved exposure for CarSafe and Valspar.”
His two steady sponsors will support him at Indianapolis, flying their colors on a car featuring Roy Johnson horsepower.
“A while ago we discussed pulling some things together to give it a shot at Indy, then a few weeks ago it all came together,” Stevens said. “I can’t express how appreciative I am to Mark Eckman and the guys at CarSafe for supporting and believing in me and my Indy dream.
“I also need to thank my longtime sponsor and good friend Randy Tinsley with Valspar, Roy and Allen Johnson for making a fast hot rod available, the Rick Jones family for hauling the car and handling the dirty-work, Buddy Perkinson for lending us parts, Tom Pierson at Pierson Construction, my fiancé and competitor for the weekend, Erica Enders, and especially my Dad for the unconditional support,” he said. “I owe it all to them, because without them, I’d be here on the line, watching.”
Stevens is the only drag racer ever to win a Pro Stock national event in all three sanctions: NHRA, ADRL, and the International Hot Rod Association.