Jim Yates - Atlanta Prieview

Yates hits magic speed; now focusing on Atlanta win COMMERCE, Ga. - Jim Yates became a 200-mph man, now he'd like to get his SplitFire PEAK Pontiac Firebird in the winner's circle. Yates entered Pro Stock's magic speed area during first round...

Yates hits magic speed; now focusing on Atlanta win

COMMERCE, Ga. - Jim Yates became a 200-mph man, now he'd like to get his SplitFire PEAK Pontiac Firebird in the winner's circle.

Yates entered Pro Stock's magic speed area during first round of the Pennzoil Nationals qualifying (April 30) at Dinwiddie, Va., near Richmond. Yates' SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac was clocked at 200.11 mph at Virginia Motorsports Park, making him the fifth driver to exceed 200 mph.

The veteran from Alexandria, Va., wanted to add another win to his resume - this time in front of family and friends at his home track - but ran into traction problems and lost in the first round.

So now Yates is focusing his attention on winning the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, May 14-16, at Atlanta Dragway.

"We plan to give everything a good going over and get the motors ready to race again," Yates said. "We've now run 200 mph and our (Bob Ingles-built) engine has a lot of power. We're getting closer and closer to the right tune up for it. It's just a matter of putting it all together."

Yates, the 1996-97 Pro Stock champion, won at Atlanta Dragway in 1997 and was runner-up in 1996. He won 17 times - including nine in '97 - during his two title-winning seasons.

"I really thought the race in Virginia was going to be our race," Yates said. "When we came out of the trailer and ran 6.896 (seconds) at 200 mph on the first hit (of the throttle), I thought we were in real good shape."

Instead, Yates and his Pro Stock rivals ran into a one-lane race track. Cool, overcast skies created ideal conditions for the engines to generate optimum horsepower. The only problem was the left lane couldn't hold the power on many occasions. Yates ran the 6.896 and a 6.886, which would qualify him 10th for eliminations, in the right lane. In the opposite lane, his best was 6.994, and that wouldn't have qualified him in the quickest field in NHRA history.

On race day, Yates was on the left side of the track against Mike Thomas. While Yates fought tire shake on the run, Thomas came up with a near-perfect performance. His reaction time was .404 seconds (.400 is perfect), and his winning time was 6.880 at 199.44. "When my car shook, it just shot straight toward the centerline. I saw Mike was ahead of me and decided to shut off the engine," added Yates, who coasted to the finish line in 8.400 seconds at 116.33 mph. "We ran good in the right lane, but not good enough to make it into the top half of the field. Lane choice was imperative."

Yates was pleased to become a member of Speed Pro's 200-mph Club. "We haven't been working on trying to go 200. We've always tried to work on running quick. This engine likes to run at high rpm," he commented. "Now we have to gear it right so it runs like that all the time. The 200-mph lap was a tremendous boost for our program and our morale. It showed we could run at the front of the pack."

His goal is to qualify at the front of the pack during the four sessions at Atlanta - 3 and 7 p.m. Friday, noon and 4 p.m. Saturday - and drive into the winner's circle Sunday evening.

Jim Yates

1999 Pro Stock Record Standing: 4th, 318 points Round Record:  6W-6L
Quickest ET:  6.856, Richmond, Va. Fastest Speed:  200.11 mph, Richmond

Career Pro Stock Record First Season: 1989 Best Season Finish: 1st -- 1996 and 1997 Races Qualified: 155 Wins: 20 (fifth in all-time Pro Stock victories) Runners-up: 21 Last Win: Feb. 1, 1998, Pomona Last Final: Oct. 25, 1998, Dallas No. 1 Qualifier: 16 times Last No. 1 Qualifier: 1998, Brainerd Quickest E.T.: 6.877, 1998, Gainesville Fastest Speed: 200.11, 1999, Richmond

At Atlanta Best Finish: Won, 1998, Runner-up, 1997 1999 Finish: Qual 14th, lost first round

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas