ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 18, 1999) - - Since the start of the 1999 season, Jim Yates and all the members of his SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Firebird Pro Stock team have been seeking the optimum combination that will produce consistent elapsed times and...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 18, 1999) - - Since the start of the 1999 season, Jim Yates and all the members of his SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Firebird Pro Stock team have been seeking the optimum combination that will produce consistent elapsed times and speeds.
With each passing event, the car's performance shows they are getting closer to their goal. Yates moved into third place following last week's race in Georgia and he would like to stay in the passing lane - going by the two drivers who are ahead of him -- the son-father Johnson duo of Kurt, No. 1 and Warren, No. 2.
"Winning a race would be a tremendous boost for us," said Yates, who has his sights set on winning not only the Mopar Nationals, Friday through Sunday at Raceway Park, but an extra $50,000 up for grabs in Saturday's special Holly Pro Stock Dominator Duel. Yates, from Alexandria, Va., is a two-time Winston series champion (1996-97). He has one win (1996) and one runner-up finish (1995) at Raceway Park. He also claimed the $50,000 prize in the 1997 special event.
"We found some problems with our program in the last few weeks and have been able to get a good baseline program going," said Yates following a semifinal appearance at the Southern Nationals (May 16) at Commerce, Ga. "I think we have a good setup for Englishtown, but our combination wasn't working as well on (slippery) race tracks like Atlanta Dragway. The starting line at Raceway Park can be a little slippery but the track is excellent and allows us to get horsepower to the ground."
Yates needs to win a race to begin reeling in the Johnsons. He is 209 points behind Warren Johnson, the reigning series titleholder. "He's the guy we have to catch," Yates added. It was WJ who defeated him at Commerce on the way to his third win in 1999.
"We are headed in the right direction," Yates continued. "We qualified in the top four (fourth, 6.943 seconds at 198.23 mph) and were only three-thousandths of a second out of second place. We need to qualify in the top three, finish in the top three and go down the track on every run, then we'll be in the hunt. That's our old style of performance (that was the foundation for winning 17 races during the 1996-97 title years).
"We won rounds at Atlanta and the car ran consistently. That's the level of play that is required."
One of only four Pro Stock drivers to qualify at all seven races this season, Yates drove the SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac past Bruce Allen in the first round and Mike Edwards in the second. His winning 6.946-second run in the first round was third quickest and his 6.984 in the next round was second quickest.
"During the last three races we've been working on the car's performance and my reaction times," said Yates. "The reaction times were better at Atlanta but the performance wasn't. We'll gradually get to the top in our performance. I told our crew that we couldn't expect to fix our program in one race. We'll get it fixed in the next few races. To do that, we need to be consistent from round to round and track to track."
Yates faces Mark Pawuk in the first round of the Dominator Duel. Eight drivers - those who accumulated the most qualifying points in the last 21 races - will be competing for the $50,000 payday Saturday in the event that is run in conjunction with qualifying sessions.
1999 Pro Stock Record Standing: 3rd, 394 points Round Record: 8W-7L Quickest ET: 6.886, Richmond, Va. Fastest Speed: 200.11 mph, Richmond
Career Pro Stock Record First Season: 1989 Best Season Finish: 1st -- 1996 and 1997 Races Qualified: 156 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 Englishtown Best Finish: Won, 1996, Runner-up, 1995 1999 Finish: Qual 7th, lost in semifinal round