GAINESVILLE, Fla. - As a hustling crew member, Jamie Yates was willing to do anything to make sure his father's Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird was prepared for race day. These days, the second-generation racer wants to make sure his ...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - As a hustling crew member, Jamie Yates was willing to do anything to make sure his father's Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird was prepared for race day.
These days, the second-generation racer wants to make sure his look-a-like ride is in similar condition. Preparation is everything. Like father-son relationships in all forms of motorsports, two-time NHRA Winston champion Jim Yates is granting his son the opportunity to drive one of the family sedans. And the younger Yates is overflowing with anticipation.
After two events this season, Jamie has experienced the highs and lows of life in the fast lane. At the season-opener in Pomona he qualified a disappointing 23rd. At Phoenix, he rebounded to qualify 16th, and managed to advance to the semifinals on Sunday.
His surprising performance at Phoenix has him bubbling about possibilities at the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 16-19, at Gainesville Raceway.
The elder Yates is a two-time winner of the $1.9 million race, the third of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 2000. Jamie, who is set to drive the family's second entry for much of the season, hopes to become a first-time winner at the historic quarter-mile whose win list includes Pro Stock legends Bob Glidden, Lee Shepherd, Don Nicholson, Bill Jenkins and Ronnie Sox, among others.
His recent performance at Phoenix gives the 22-year-old newcomer the confidence that he can compete at this level.
"I'm happy we were able to go rounds," Jamie said about his career-best effort at Phoenix. "I wish I could have done a better job from a driving standpoint. My reaction times suffered a little at Phoenix and I know I'm capable of doing a lot better. I gained a lot of experience in the car, and that's what's important."
He knocked off some pretty stout talent in Phoenix. In the first round he defeated another of drag racing's favorite son's, Kurt Johnson. In the second round he topped former Warren Johnson crew chief Greg Anderson. However, his victory ride came to an end when veteran Mark Pawuk used a quick reaction time and performance advantage to oust him in the semifinals.
"It was a great learning experience," Jamie said. "I got to feel the pressure of race day and everything that goes along with it. I just need to adjust better to those kinds of conditions. I'm pumped about going to Gainesville."
Like all racing sons, he can't wait for the inevitable match-up with his father. Unlike Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker's famed duel in Star Wars, Jamie expects a more civil battle when the two meet at the starting line. "It's great racing with my dad," Jamie said. "He's terrific help in showing me what I need to do and he does a great job of calming me down. It would be nice to race him in the finals one day."
Dad expects the future match-up as well. He says his son is a quick learner. While the father has managed to put together a career that includes a pair of Winston championships and 22 career victories, he says Jamie has the unique potential to develop a similar career in the sport.
"Jamie's done a great job of getting in the race car and learning how to drive," the elder Yates said. "He's been patient and he thinks a lot about what he has to do, but he may be too hard on himself right now. He has to get over that. Right now, I'm as proud as I can be. I'd like to see him in the winner's circle before too long."