Baytown: Jim Yates preview

Jim Yates Climbs to Third in POWERade Pro Stock Points Win at Houston, Says Virginia Driver, Will Make Him True Title Contender BAYTOWN, Texas - The process sounds simple enough. "In order to win the NHRA Pro Stock championship, you must ...

Jim Yates Climbs to Third in POWERade Pro Stock Points
Win at Houston, Says Virginia Driver, Will Make Him True Title Contender

BAYTOWN, Texas - The process sounds simple enough.

"In order to win the NHRA Pro Stock championship, you must learn how to win rounds," says Jim Yates, who knows firsthand, with season titles in 1996-97. "Then you must learn how to win a race. When we win a race, then we'll be in a position to be a championship contender."

After three 2005 POWERade Series races, Yates has 202 points and ranks third in the early going behind leader Dave Connolly (243) and Warren Johnson (223) as the O'Reilly Spring Nationals awaits at Houston Raceway Park.

"We're really close to the winning part of the package," continued the driver of the B&W Pontiac Grand Am. "When we put everything together, we could take the lead. We are back in championship mode; almost back to where we were in 2002."

That's the year Yates parlayed consistent performances into an advantage that held up for 10 of the 23 race weeks. In the end, Yates wound up second to Jeg Coughlin Jr.

"We believe in ourselves," said the Occoquan, Va., resident, "and we want to show we can do it. We're putting ourselves in a position to where we can win."

After struggling a year ago, Yates came out with a new Grand Am, built by Jerry Haas, and powered, for the first time, by Steve Schmidt engines. While the combination has not yielded that all-important first victory yet in 2005, it has shown enough potential to put Yates in the "win waiting to happen" category.

His debut was impressive. Yates shocked the assembled Winternationals Pro Stock field when he drove off with the No. 1 qualifying position at a career-best 6.699 seconds and, at the time, the Pomona Raceway record. It was his 29th low qualifying effort. He lost in the quarterfinals, but he advanced to the semifinals at ensuing events in Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla.

Jamie Yates, Jim and Toni's eldest son, is the crew chief and one of the catalysts in this sudden performance turnaround.

"Jamie is doing a good job tuning the car," said Jim. "He's been making the right calls and the car has responded to the changes. We've been able try different combinations by going rounds on Sunday. It's a bonus when you can go rounds on race day. You learn much more running in race conditions and we haven't been able to do that for a couple years." Yates reestablished career bests at Gainesville, dropping the elapsed time to 6.672 seconds and increasing the speed to 206.46 mph during qualifying. In eliminations, he defeated nemesis Coughlin with a first-round hole-shot, leaving the line with a .025-second reaction time to .050 and stopping the clock at 6.716 seconds to a 6.700 - a victory margin of nine-thousandths of a second.

A return to Houston Raceway Park gives Yates another shot at mastering its quarter-mile asphalt. He was second twice (2000 and 1995) in his only visits to the final round.

A victory would prove a point, too. And make him a bona-fide championship challenger.

-yr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Jamie Yates , Steve Schmidt , Jerry Haas , Dave Connolly