Atlanta: Yates moves into first place

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2001) - What a difference 24 hours made for Jim Yates. On Saturday afternoon, Yates was one run away from possibly not qualifying for the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals. On Sunday afternoon, Yates was standing in...

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2001) - What a difference 24 hours made for Jim Yates.

On Saturday afternoon, Yates was one run away from possibly not qualifying for the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals.

On Sunday afternoon, Yates was standing in the Pro Stock winner's circle following a gritty, impressive performance at Atlanta Dragway. And he was suddenly leading the NRHA Winston Series standings. It was Yates' first victory since August 1999, and the first time he's been in first place since March 1998.

All it took was a lot of hard work from Yates, his crew chief Terry Adams and the SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Grand Am crew and two extremely pivotal quarter-mile runs.

The first came on the final qualifying run on a hot afternoon, the kind that slowed Pro Stock times. Yates was not among the 16 qualified cars when he pulled to the line. But an outstanding 6.939-second run at 199.58 mph bumped him into the 14th spot going into eliminations. The time was second-quickest of the round in a field of 35 Pro Stock cars.

The old drag racing adage says, "You can't beat them unless you make the show," and Yates did that.

Sunday, he completed the feat.

As the No. 14 qualifier, Yates was matched against No. 3 Kurt Johnson, who qualified with a 4.897. But Johnson was never a factor after Yates left him at the starting line with a nearly perfect .404 reaction time (.400 is perfect). At the finish line, Yates' 6.924 at 199.64 was an easy winner over Johnson's 6.910 at 200.02.

And Yates, who now has two runner-up finishes to go along with his 23rd career win in 2001, actually had an easy time of it from then on. George Marnell and Mark Pawuk fouled out against him in the next two rounds and Greg Anderson, who beat Yates a week ago in the finals at Bristol, Tenn., also had a red-light start. Yates took the win with a 6.959 at 199.43 while Anderson's red light negated a 6.957 at 198.17.

"The last four weeks we've gone through both highs and lows," said an elated Yates. "We've been in three of the last four finals (Las Vegas, Bristol and here) and the car has run excellent, but coming here yesterday we almost didn't qualify. Then you go out and lay down the 6.93, that's the kind of thing that builds a championship-caliber team. . . to be able to produce the run when you have to.

"It's nice to be in the points lead, but obviously it's way too early to start talking championship," added Yates, the 1996-97 season champion. "Our SplitFire/PEAK team has been there, working hard all the time. They just don't give up, and that's what it takes to win."

Next up for Yates is the Matco Tools SuperNationals and the Holley Pro Stock Duel, which pays $50,000 to the winner. The race is scheduled May 18-20 at Englishtown, N.J., and the Duel, featuring eight qualified drivers, unfolds May 19.

-JYR

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Terry Adams