GM Racers Head to Heartland Park for O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals Coming After a Succesful Pontiac Performance Nationals Weekend TOPEKA, Kan., May 23, 2006 - The frenetic pace for GM racers on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour only gets even...
GM Racers Head to Heartland Park for O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals Coming After a Succesful Pontiac Performance Nationals Weekend
TOPEKA, Kan., May 23, 2006 - The frenetic pace for GM racers on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour only gets even more hectic this Memorial Day weekend as the schedule moves west to the Sunflower State and Heartland Park Topeka for the running of the 18th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals. There's no rest for the weary, and these GM competitors are coming off a successful Pontiac Performance Nationals week in Columbus, Ohio, that saw victories for Pontiac GTO driver Jim Yates in Pro Stock and Chevy Monte Carlo driver Tony Pedregon in Funny Car. It was the second straight national event that GM-branded racecars had posted wins in the two categories, and it marked the 164th all-time win for Pontiac in Pro Stock, and the 80th win for Chevrolet in Funny Car.
At Columbus, Jim Yates picked up his first win of 2006, his first victory ever at the Pontiac Performance Nationals, and his first victory in nearly four years, becoming the eighth different winner this year in the NHRA Pro Stock category. With 12 round wins, the two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) and driver of the Sea-Ray Boat Pontiac GTO is off to his best start since 2002, and moved all the way to third in points standings after the Columbus win.
Yates added veteran engine builder and Pro Stock legend Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins to his team this year and has seen a marked improvement each race since the season-opener at Pomona.
"Over the winter we thought we'd be okay with 'Grump' coming on board, along with this new GTO we got at the end of last year - it's just and awesome car. And (crew chief) Jamie's (Yates) matured another year, and having 'Grump' on board helped Jamie because he takes responsibility off Jamie's shoulders, and "Grump' sees things that Jamie doesn't see. We built this team from the ground up, and that's the good part. It didn't just happen overnight. We started at Pomona in the bottom half of the field and we've worked our way up all year. Every race we've gotten better in qualifying.
"I have so much respect for that guy (Jenkins), it's unbelievable. He's not grumpy, he's just busy. He's 75 years old and works constantly on this stuff. I mean he pushes himself to the limit every day to make this stuff run. All he thinks about from the time he comes to this racetrack is how to make that GTO run faster, and I like it that way."
All 25 career wins that Yates has collected over the years have been in a Pontiac, and he's certainly seen his share of success at Heartland Park, including victories in 1996-97, three runners-up and three No. 1 qualifying efforts (1996-97, 2002).
"As competitive as Pro Stock is right now, and as tough as the teams are that are out there, it feels great to back in the mix," said Yates. "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."