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Pontiac's Jim Yates Focuses on Strong Finish to the 2008 NHRA POWERade Season BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 6, 2008 - Although Jim Yates has experienced his share of ups and downs this season, the driver of the Wiley X Eyewear Pontiac is highly...

Pontiac's Jim Yates Focuses on Strong Finish to the 2008 NHRA POWERade Season

BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 6, 2008 - Although Jim Yates has experienced his share of ups and downs this season, the driver of the Wiley X Eyewear Pontiac is highly optimistic about his team's chances this weekend at the 27th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Coming up on the schedule are a pair of events at BIR, and the following week at Reading, Pa., where the two-time NHRA POWERade champion (1996-97) has a long history of being extremely competitive, and he will try to capitalize on his 18 years in the sport to close out the 2008 season on a high note.

"There's a lot talk of being in the top 10 and making the Countdown," Yates said. "If we win a race between now and the end of the year then our season will have been a success. Wiley X will be extremely happy, Pontiac will be happy and we'll be happy because it sets the pace for the level of competition we'll be able to provide next year. If we're in a position where we have the performance level, we can make a lot of those so-called contenders nervous. They're not only going to have to worry about winning that round, but they're going to have to compete against our team, and we're going to be at a level where we can be a thorn in their side."

As an NHRA Pro Stock driver, Yates earned his first career victory at Brainerd in 1994, added a pair of runners-up to his long list of performance accomplishments in 1995 and '97, and No. 1 qualifying awards in 1995 and '98. The Wiley X Pontiac driver picked up back-to-back wins at Reading in 1996-97, collected a third in 2002, a runner-up in 2005 and was top qualifier in 1997 and 2002. Yates knows and likes both tracks as well as any on the circuit.

"We won our first race at Brainerd, and our next-to-last win back in 2002 was at Reading," Yates said. "I feel really comfortable when competing at those racetracks, especially at Reading because we have so many fans in that area - it's only two hours from our race shop. We have a lot of local fans in the Washington, D.C. - Baltimore area who make the trip to Reading. That's where we used to go year after year to do our NHRA bracket finals, which we did for a long time before we went Pro Stock racing full time. There's a lot of history there and a lot of anticipation on our part.

"We're trying to run better on a hot track. We've run well on some good tracks, so we're working on a better hot-track combination, although we haven't seen too much of that this summer. When we have, it bit us - Seattle second round where we shook the tires real hard. Brainerd will be a really nice race and play into our strong points. Going into Reading, though, we'll have to work on that hot-track combination and try to get it refined. We'll see if that can help us through the next eight to 10 races and get us through the end of the year."

"The fact that we can be competitive over that long a period of time - I mean I've been racing on the NHRA circuit for 18 years and it's incredible to have had that kind of success," Yates said. "Right now we're not having one of our best years, but we're building the foundation to be able to have a great year next season and beyond. We went through this in 1996 and '97. We won two straight championships, and then went into a slump around 1999 and 2000, but we came right back and finished No. 2 in the points in 2001 and 2002. We've been very resilient and have been able to come back many times, and now I believe we're in the midst of a comeback based on the quality of the team we're putting together. Especially with the success Richard (Maskin) has shown on the engine side and Jamie (Yates) is truly coming into his own as a crew chief. He's one of the better crew chiefs out there, and there's a lot of good talent in Pro Stock right now.

"We're also continuing to build our relationship with the Wiley-X Sunglass Machine and Pontiac, and we're putting it all together. I'm confident that our best races are ahead of us. We want to finish up the rest of the season strong. Some people say we're going to make the top 10, some say we're not going to make the top 10. To us, we just want to win races, and between now and the end of the year we want to go out and be in a position to win races. Right now we're probably a hundredth of-a-second from being in that position, which is a pretty good spot to be."

With only three races remaining before the Countdown to One following Indy, Yates sits 14th in the standings and needs to erase a 193 point deficit in order to break into the top 10. Regardless of whether or not he makes drag racing's version of a championship playoffs, Yates' focus will continue to be on winning races, winning rounds, and improving the performance of his Wiley X Eyewear Pontiac. At this point of the season, Yates is confident that his program is capable of all three.

"We're really happy with our GXP," Yates said. "Jerry Haas built it for us over the winter and it's probably one of the better race cars I've ever had, if not the best. It 60-foots well, it always goes straight, it never shakes the tires, maybe once this year has it shaken the tires, and that's because we got out of control with it. It's been very predictable and very fast. The problem for us is that we've had four different engine programs in the first half of the year, and changing from one engine builder to the next has been kind of elusive for us. We've settled in with Richard Maskin and Dart, and we feel like we have a lot of potential there, it's just a matter of adapting the car to the engines and then helping him develop a little more horsepower. We have a good program that's giving him consistent data, and it's a matter of tuning it up and making it run.

I'm really excited - probably more so than I've been all year because we have some direction and some consistency on the engine side. Right now, we don't have the power to be the top-eight qualifier, but Richard has been able to give it to us consistently and he's going to continue working on that program. Truthfully, he's probably more motivated than anybody on our team and that's what you need. You need people that want to excel and Richard's proven over the years that he can. He's won a lot of championships both with us, and Jeg (Coughlin), and other teams, and that's where it comes from, his never-ending desire to win. When you're partnered up with somebody like that and you have that kind of energy in your corner, it builds momentum, it builds excitement and I see nothing but good things coming. There's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's us coming out running strong."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jerry Haas