Jim Yates Looks to Join Growing List of Season Winners at Pontiac Performance Nationals National Trail Raceway to Host Annual Event May 18 - 21 COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 12, 2006 - With a runner-up finish at Houston, Bill Jenkins horsepower, and a...
Jim Yates Looks to Join Growing List of Season Winners at Pontiac Performance Nationals
National Trail Raceway to Host Annual Event May 18 - 21
COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 12, 2006 - With a runner-up finish at Houston, Bill Jenkins horsepower, and a Pontiac GTO that has him in the top five of the NHRA Pro Stock standings (less than six rounds out of first place), two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) Jim Yates is enjoying racing again. Off to his best seven-race start since 2002, the 52-year-old Virginian continues to improve with each contest. The driver of the Sea-Ray Boats Pontiac has advanced up the points ladder from 13th to fifth, and qualified in the top half of the field five times, with his best effort coming at the previous race in Atlanta (4th). Yates is still looking for his first win of 2006, which he hopes to accomplish at the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment at National Trail Raceway on May 18 - 21.
How does it feel to be back in the mix of things? "As competitive as Pro Stock is right now, and as tough as the teams are that are out there, it feels great. The class has moved so far forward from where it used to be in terms of parity, that it's nice to be in that top group of cars. It makes us really confident that we made the right decisions over the winter to get us into this position, and now what we need to do is take advantage of those decisions, actually execute the program and go out and perform to our potential. I think we've done pretty well so far. With seven races under our belt, I'm excited with how well we've done, but with better execution, I think we can improve."
What are some of the factors in your team's resurgence? "One of the major factors is that we got that new GTO about three-quarters of the way through last year, and realistically, we struggled with it a little bit trying to bring it out when we did. We just didn't have enough time to get any decent testing done. Over the winter we got some good data to work from, and the GTO definitely stepped up our performance. It's just a really fine, fast vehicle. Plus, Jamie (Yates) has matured as a crew chief - he's learned a lot since last season and it shows. But probably the biggest factor is that we added Bill Jenkins to our program, not just his engines, but his knowledge. With Bill and his crew maintaining the engines, it allows Jamie and I to focus 100 percent of our energy on tuning the chassis. We've divided the car into specific areas with Bill working on the engine and the carburetors, and Jamie and I are working on the clutch, the transmission and trying to get the chassis to work better. We're doing a better job because we've broken it down to the fundamentals."
You seem to have a good working relationship with Bill Jenkins. "It's a pleasure to work with Bill. He's a professional. He's been racing for so long and he doesn't tend to get off-center. If he says something, it's because he thought about it, and it's a fact. He doesn't waste a lot of time speculating about what might be or what should be. He talks about what is, and in a sport where cars are separated by thousandths of a second, that's what you need to focus on. You can't be out chasing ideas when you're in the middle of a firefight."
With the standings as close as they've been in years, what will it take for you to stay in there and keep slugging it out? "We have to keep improving. We can't sit still. Bill has taken all the engines home, and they're juggling parts to try and find five or six more horsepower - that's critical. I'm working on my driving ability. I have my practice tree going full speed trying to get better there. Jamie is constantly looking at gear ratios and he's at the shop trying to find a better combination to get us where we need to be. It's going to take every aspect of the car working 100 percent to get us from being fifth in the standings to second or first. If we do a good job, we can be in the top couple of spots. If we stumble a couple of races then we drop to 10th or even farther back."
What is your read on National Trail Raceway, a facility where you've raced a long time? "We've done well at Columbus over the years. We were runner-up in 1998 and got beat by Jeg (Coughlin) in the finals, and we were runner-up again in 1994 to Scott Geoffrion. We were also No. 1 qualifier there in 1997 and 2002. We've had a good car at National Trail, but there are so many good Pro Stock racers from that area that National Trail is like a home-track advantage to them - there's an added incentive for the hometown racers to win that race. But right now, the way our GTO is running, I'm excited about taking it anywhere there's a quarter-mile racetrack. We've been to Houston and run well there, we ran well in Las Vegas, and we ran well at our last race in Atlanta. It seems like every race we go to we're stepping up a couple of spots. Now it's matter of executing and getting that win. I think we'll go to Columbus, qualify in the top half of the field, and we'll put good numbers on the board, but it will come down to getting it done on Sunday. If you want to win you need to get that five thousandths of a second advantage to fall in your lane."
Any races where you didn't run as expected? "When we're as close as we are right now, a little under six rounds from the leader, I can go and pick three rounds we should've won. But you can't really do that - it doesn't do any good. We missed an opportunity is a better way to put it, because the competition is so close that any one of these races could go either way. There's no way to change the past, but being a good, successful racing team, as I think we are, we need to learn from those experiences. We need to make sure we don't do something that may cost us another round, because as we go through the year, those rounds will add up and be critical."
With the car running back at the front is there a sense of heightened confidence with the team? "Any time you've been at the top, and you fall off the top, you feel like you've lost it. In the back of your mind you question whether you're capable of doing it anymore. When you come back like we have this year, then you start thinking that you do know how to win again. Being in the top few cars doesn't guarantee you a championship, but you have a better shot there than if you're 10th or 11th. In Atlanta we felt like we could run with the fastest cars, and when you do that, you can win a race. When you win a race, you can win a championship. Our focus right now is on winning a race. When we make that happen, then we can start thinking about competing for a championship."
Is it fun to be at the track again, running as well as you are? "There are years you go through that you feel happy just to qualify, and you don't even believe you can win a round. But this year we're in a position where we can win races. The competition is tough, and there's a lot of parity, but if you can qualify well, it gives you the confidence that you can win rounds, and then you put yourself in position to win races. It definitely makes it fun to go to the racetrack. Like I said at the beginning, I get excited now going to any track that's a quarter-mile long. I feel that confident in our program, whether it's the Mile-High Nationals at Denver, or racing at sea-level in Houston, or the Pontiac Performance Nationals in Columbus."
Pontiac Performance Nationals Stats & Facts
. Drivers from the NHRA and the GM Racing program will be making their annual stop at the Columbus Children's Hospital on Thursday, May 18. Since the 1999 Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals, GM Racers have made the visit to one of the nation's premier children's facilities. In addition, the Central Ohio Pontiac dealers will raise money for Children's Hospital by raffling a Simpson Racing helmet signed by over 50 NHRA drivers and former champions. Signing autographs at Children's, and visiting with the kids and their families will be Kurt Johnson, Jim Yates, Cory McClenathan, Jason Line, Mike Edwards, Mark Pawuk, Ron Krisher, Morgan Lucas, and Hillary Will. Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt will also be on display at the outpatient entrance to the hospital letting the kids get an up-close view of an NHRA Pro Stock Car. All of the children will receive a gift bag provided by Pontiac and Summit Racing.
. Chris Haydocy will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing Equipment on May 18 - 21 at National Trail Raceway. Chris oversees Haydocy Pontiac-Buick-GMC, a family-owned dealership located in Columbus that has provided Central Ohio customers with quality cars, trucks and service for over 52 years. Chris is also the only dealer in Ohio to be a member of the GM Regional Dealer Council.
. Dave Connolly's most recent Cobalt win in Commerce, Ga., on May 7 was Chevrolet's 129th all-time in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
. Tony Pedregon's win at Atlanta was the third victory this year for a Chevy Monte Carlo in Funny Car competition and the 79th all time for Chevy in the nitro category. Cruz Pedregon won earlier this year in Las Vegas and Tommy Johnson drove his Monte Carlo to victory at Phoenix.
. Greg Anderson is the defending champion at the Pontiac Performance Nationals and has driven to the winner's circle at National Trail Raceway four years in-a-row. Anderson's first Columbus win was in 2002 when he defeated Darrell Alderman in the finals. In 2003, Anderson defeated Scott Geoffrion in the final round and in 2004 it was Ohio-native Dave Connolly who fell to Anderson in the championship heat. Last year the Summit Racing Pontiac driver defeated Kurt Johnson in the money round.
. The NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings show Pontiac in first place with 1,320 points, Chevrolet is in second place with 880 points and Dodge is third with 700.
. Among active drivers, Anderson and GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson have the most victories at National Trail Raceway, each with four. Johnson won the event in 1985, 1993, 1999 and 2001. Bill Jenkins, who supplies engines for Jim Yates Sea-Ray Boats Pontiac GTO is a two-time winner at National Trail Raceway claiming victories at the first event in 1972 and again in 1975. Ohio native Mark Pawuk won the race in 2000.
. Warren Johnson holds both the Pro Stock track e.t. (6.723 seconds) and top speed (205.13 mph) records which were set at last year's race.
. Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson has been the No. 1 qualifier at five of the first seven races and teammate Jason Line has claimed the remaining two pole positions. In fact, a Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driven by either Anderson or Line has been the No. 1 qualifier at the last 13 races going all the way back to last September's U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
. There are nine drivers in GM-branded cars in the top 10 of the POWERade Pro Stock standings. Anderson (Pontiac) leads with 504 points, Jason Line is second with (Pontiac) with 451 points, Erica Enders (Chevrolet) is third with 425 points, Mike Edwards (Pontiac) is fourth with 414 points and Jim Yates (Pontiac) is fifth with 392 points. Greg Stanfield (Pontiac) is in sixth place with 388 points, Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet) is eighth with 349, Dave Connolly (Chevrolet) is ninth with 338 and Warren Johnson (Pontiac) is 10th with 336 points.
. Chevy Monte Carlo driver Del Worsham is fifth in the Funny Car standings with 376 points. Tommy Johnson Jr. is in sixth place in a Monte Carlo with 373 points, Cruz Pedregon is in seventh place in a Monte Carlo with 368 points, Phil Burkart is in eighth place in a Monte Carlo with 344 points and Tony Pedregon is in ninth place in a Monte Carlo with 328 points. Ron Capps is in first place with 634 points.
Qualifying coverage of the Pontiac Performance Nationals presented by Summit Racing will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 20, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern. A three-hour broadcast of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 21, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern.