BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 5, 1999) -- There wasn't a long victory celebration in Jim Yates' Pro Stock camp following his impressive Sears Craftsman Nationals win near St. Louis (early a.m. Sunday, June 27). Two days later Yates and his new ...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 5, 1999) -- There wasn't a long victory celebration in Jim Yates' Pro Stock camp following his impressive Sears Craftsman Nationals win near St. Louis (early a.m. Sunday, June 27).
Two days later Yates and his new SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac were in Denver testing for the next NHRA Winston Series event, July 15-18. While he was looking for a winning combination in the mile-high altitude, Yates also was searching for consistent performances, something he'll be able to put to good use before the team gets to Denver.
First up is the non-points inaugural Winston Showdown, July 8-10 at the new Bristol Dragway, and the incentive comes in the form of a $50,000 payday for the Pro Stock winner. The format, which guarantees 10 of the 16 starting positions to previous champions and most recent race winners, means Yates won't have to worry about getting into the starting field. And that suits him just fine. He has other things on his mind.
"Because we do have the luxury of knowing we'll be racing on Saturday, we plan to use our four qualifying runs at Bristol as test sessions," said Yates, who is from Alexandria, Va. "The more runs we make, the quicker we can find the right combination. By testing during qualifying, we're running against other cars, and that will give us a baseline for what we want to do. We're hoping we can find something that will help us.
"On Saturday we'll put in our best combination and try to win the 50 grand." Yates and his crew were very happy to leave St. Louis with his 21st career win, and his first win in 32 races, dating to February 1998 at Pomona, Calif.
"We struggled all three days at St. Louis," he remarked. "We have had a problem with our engine, trying to find a tune-up that will run in humid conditions. We messed with the timing, we messed with the carburetors, we did everything but change motors. We accepted that what the engine had on race day was all there was. We decided to build on that, and our SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac did everything it could do."
Yates helped himself, using excellent starting-line reaction times to record two hole-shot wins, including his final round victory over Allen Johnson. Yates left the starting line with a .413 reaction time and stopped the clocks with a 7.018 at 195.85 to Johnson's .423 reaction and 7.010 time at 196.33 mph. The winning margin was a minuscule two-thousandths of a second.
Yates, one of only two Pro Stock drivers to qualify at all 11 races this year (Warren Johnson is the other), began the rain-delayed St. Louis race from the No. 10 position. His qualifying best was 7.007 seconds at 196.33 mph. He used his first starting line advantage of the night in the opening round to beat Steve Schmidt with a 7.073 to a 7.071. Yates improved to a 7.026 to stop Mike Thomas and a 7.023 to eliminate Greg Anderson in the semifinals.
"Bob Ingles, our engine builder, worked very hard to get the motors to work right and Jerry Bickle built us a race car good enough to win in its first race," Yates said. "My wife, Toni (a crew member), and the rest of our crew all worked hard to get that race win. We finally found a combination that wasn't the fastest out there, but it was consistent. We could cut lights with it, race with it and win with it. That's the bottom line.
"We've been learning a lot," he concluded. "It's just a matter of tweaking the right parts. We'll be going to Bristol trying to win two in a row."
Action begins with qualifying Thursday and Friday at 4 and 8 p.m., followed by Saturday's eliminations at 2:30 p.m.