Chicago Pro Stock Preview

YATES LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY AS NHRA HEADS TO ROUTE 66 RACEWAY JOLIET, Ill. -- Several Pro Stock drivers that visited NHRA's newest facility during its national event debut last May came away from the state-of-the-art quarter-mile with...

YATES LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY AS NHRA HEADS TO ROUTE 66 RACEWAY JOLIET, Ill. -- Several Pro Stock drivers that visited NHRA's newest facility during its national event debut last May came away from the state-of-the-art quarter-mile with some great memories. Mike Thomas earned his first career victory, defeating Warren Johnson in a final round that he says he'll never forget. Warren Johnson was quickest and fastest at the new racetrack, setting track records for elapsed time (6.978 seconds) and speed (197.80 mph) on his way to a runner-up finish. Little-known John Nobile qualified for his second NHRA national event in nine tries during his rookie season. Two-time Winston champion Jim Yates is not among drivers looking back at the event with a smile on his face. He's still looking to create some memorable moments at the track, located just south of Chicago. While the Alexandria, Va. driver was totally impressed with the layout and design of the ultra-modern Route 66 Raceway, he would just as soon forget about his racing effort there. Yates failed to qualify for the inaugural race at the lauded track, just missing the 16-car field by a very narrow margin. It was one of three races where Yates failed to make the starting lineup in 1998. "It was unfortunate that we didn't qualify at Chicago last year, but it wasn't because we couldn't get down the track," said Yates, one of many Pro Stock drivers looking for a victory at the second annual FRAM Route 66 Nationals, June 3-6, at Route 66 Raceway. The $1.8 million race is the ninth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "It was because we had a horsepower problem," Yates continued. "We had also failed to qualify at our home track in Richmond two races before because of the same problem. We've definitely come a long way since then and we have been making some fairly consistent runs this year. Right now we're on a good run. The car and the engine seem to be working well together and we've been running in the top three or four each qualifying session." As the 1999 season rolls into its second quarter, Yates has put memories of missed cuts behind him. He's drove his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird to three semi-finals, two second rounds and two first round exits. He says the team is getting closer to regaining its winning form. "We still have a ways to go, but we're getting there," Yates said. "We'll have a brand new Firebird for Chicago and we have some new motor stuff going on and hopefully we can close some of that three hundredths gap that Warren's got over the field. If we don't, it's going to be long season. Winning a race would be a tremendous boost. We know we've got the capability. We feel like we can compete with anyone out here." Yates, 45, hasn't won since the 1998 Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. "We want to get back to winning races," Yates said. "We have struggled a lot in the last four or five races just trying to be consistent. We have shifted our total focus on just trying to run consistent, be conservative and make good runs. We have to be better than all of the other cars out there, it's just not Warren and Kurt (Johnson). There area lot of good cars out there right now and a lot of parity." Although Yates hasn't added to his 20 career victories in over a year-and-a-half, he did accomplish one important career milestone this season. Yates joined the Speed-Pro 200-MPH Pro Stock Club with a 200.11 mph speed during Pennzoil Nationals qualifying at Virginia Motorsports Park. "We haven't been working on trying to go 200," Yates said. "We've always tried to work on running quick. The 200-mph lap was a tremendous boost for our program and our morale. This engine likes to run at high rpm. Now we have to gear it right so it runs like that all the time. It showed we could run at the front of the pack." * A Good Mix: Defending NHRA Winston Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson, a three-time winner this season in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird and runner-up at the 1998 FRAM Route 66 Nationals, says success in drag racing is all about blending the right people together to create a team that keeps mistakes to a minimum. "In NASCAR, you always hear them talk about how important chemistry is," Johnson said. "That's absolutely true in any form of motorsports. Everybody has to work together to the point where they don't even have to say anything while they're working. They know full well what their job is and everybody else has confidence that they're going to do their part of it, so when they do their own part, it all comes together. That's the chemistry you're looking for." * The Race to 86: Four-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson and eight-time Funny Car champion John Force are currently involved in a cross-category battle to surpass Bob Glidden's NHRA record for national event victories (85). Both drivers won at Atlanta's Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, and Force moved into second following his recent victory at Englishtown, N.J., the 76th of his career. Johnson is third with 75 wins. Johnson says owning the record would be nice, but he doesn't think getting it is either driver's primary motivation. "I don't think John and I really ever think about Glidden's record," Johnson said. "We're thinking about the task at hand, and that's winning as many races as possible in the effort of trying to win the championship. If that record ever falls -- and it's conceivable that it may -- so be it. If one of us is fortunate enough to exceed that record, sooner or later someone will come along and eclipse it. That's why records are records. They're only made to be broken."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , John Nobile , Warren Johnson , John Force , Bob Glidden