Richie Stevens Jr. is officially living in “pinch-me” status these days and it’s not hard to figure out why.
The CarSafe-sponsored Extreme Pro Stock standout picked up his first ADRL event win at the recent U.S. Drags V at Virginia Motorsports Park, making him the only Pro Stock driver in drag racing history to win a Pro Stock race in the ADRL, NHRA and IHRA. That officially kicked off one of the most memorable stretches in Stevens’ life, both on and off the track.
After the impressive victory, Stevens watched his girlfriend, Erica Enders, win eight days later in Chicago to become the first female to win in NHRA Pro Stock. Moments later, Enders became Stevens’ fiancé when he asked her to marry him right on the finish line at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago.
“There was no better time with both of us doing well and I went to the finish line where she got her win – right on the stripe – and that was it. It couldn’t have been on a better day or at a better spot and it all worked out really well,” Stevens said.
“I didn’t want to steal the thunder from her winning the race, but the opportunity was there to do it and it was perfect.
“I couldn’t have drawn up a better eight days. It’s been great, like you’re living in a fantasy. Hopefully it will continue.”
If it continues on the track for Stevens, it will come at this week’s Summer Drags VIII, which takes place Friday and Saturday at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich.
Stevens is riding a massive wave of momentum after a terrific showing in Virginia.
With Enders cheering – and helping – him on, Stevens, who won the 2011 Battle For The Belts in XPS, had a banner day.
In the finals, he reeled in Dean Goforth with a 4.091 at 176.33 mph in the finals after an uncharacteristic poor light, but it also was the perfect time to run his quickest and fastest time of the weekend.
Afterwards, he dedicated the win to team sponsor and CarSafe Owner Mark Eckman.
“This feels awesome. Everybody out here is great and the competition is just incredible, so this means a lot to me. But it meant even more to get this win for Mark,” Stevens said.
“This trophy is going right to his house. To get that win in Richmond was awesome. I really wanted to get this win for Mark. He’s been behind this whole program since the start and it was an honor for me to get it for him. That felt great.”
There was a little bit of everything involved during Stevens’ magical day, including back-to-back 4.09s in his Jerry Haas Race Cars Mustang to finish his day.
Stevens, who was the runner-up in April at the Spring Drags in Bristol, showed his driving ability earlier in the day when a peddle-fest broke out against Pete Berner. It’s a rarity in Extreme Pro Stock, but Stevens did what he needed to do, going an adventurous 5.463 to get past Berner.
“That was a peddling-fest and I had not been in one of those. I’ve never really had to pedal a car to get back in it, but I was reaching for levers, watching for Pete and I was just trying to get down to the beams first,” Stevens said.
“We had a couple lucky breaks, but you need that. (Crew chief) Tom (Pierson) gave me a great car and we pulled it together when we had to. It was a good effort by everybody.”
The end result was a victory, but also the points lead for the first time in his ADRL career.
But it’s not exactly a commanding lead, as he leads Cary Goforth by just 80 points heading into the Summer Drags VIII, a track where Goforth won a year ago.
In fact, the top five drivers in the class (Stevens, Cary Goforth, Dean Goforth, Brian Gahm and Todd Hoerner) are separated by less than 250 points, making for what should be an unbelievable chase for the championship over the final five races.
It’s that possibility of a championship that has Stevens excited for the stretch run, and with the recent run of memorable events, he couldn’t be more excited.
“I didn’t even know we achieved the No. 1 spot. That was a bonus, but it’s anybody’s race. Everyone has a chance,” Stevens said. “There are so many awesome drivers. Nobody cuts you any slack on the starting line, so it’s going to be a dogfight. There are a lot of good cars out there.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the car and trying to grab another win. I’m not trying to be greedy but I’m like every other driver who wants to win every time. I’m going to go to Martin with a good head on my shoulders.”