Atlanta Pontiac Racing heads to Atlanta

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 2, 2000) - The NHRA championship season is a long campaign consisting of 23 events over the course of 10 months, and during that time a lot of things happen that contribute towards the final outcome of the points race. ...

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 2, 2000) - The NHRA championship season is a long campaign consisting of 23 events over the course of 10 months, and during that time a lot of things happen that contribute towards the final outcome of the points race. The Jeg's juggernaut led by Jeg Coughlin Jr., has won five of the first six races in the Pro Stock category, but don't engrave his name into the title trophy just yet. Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird driver Jim Yates is ready to launch a summer blitzkrieg of his own that could put him closer to the top of the points standings and back into contention for a third Winston crown. "We struggled early in the year and there's nothing that says they won't have their problems as well," Yates said. "When they do we need to be ready to take advantage of that and pick up some rounds. "All we're trying to do is run our side of the racetrack. I'm really impressed with how fast this Splitfire Pontiac is running right now. I think this crew has done a great job of coming together, and all I can say is that we've been better than everyone else over the last month but Jegs. If we go to the finals enough times we're going to win some races. They're doing a great job over there and are on a roll. I've been there before so I know what it's like. We just have to focus on our program, and figure out how to pick up a thousandth of a second here and a thousandth of a second there. If we put enough thousandths together then we can get the win light at the other end." Yates is coming of a pair of back-to-back trips to the final round. First in Houston where he took the No. 1 qualifying position and set low elapsed time of the meet at 6.888 seconds, and then last weekend in Richmond. At both events, the two-time (1996-97) Winston champion lost in the title battle to Jeg Coughlin Jr. Although he would much rather be sitting with consecutive victories, the performance of Yates' Bob Ingles-powered Firebird over the past three months has moved the 46-year-old Virginian all the way up to third in the points standings and given him another reason to smile. "Bob (Ingles) keeps building us good power and the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird has been running awfully strong," Yates said. "Runner-up is not bad. When you go to the finals it shows you're gaining on a lot of people. Having back- to-back wins would be a lot better, but what we're doing is gaining rounds of eliminations - going four rounds on Sunday just like the Coughlins so that we're learning more about the racetrack. We're also learning more about how to tune the car, and even though we made some mistakes in Richmond, we came out pretty well." One of the reasons for Yates success this year has been the implementation of a two-car team, with son Jamie driving the second Splitfire/Peak Firebird. Like any two-car system, it gives them the ability to double their efforts in gathering valuable information and allows them to improve their performance that much faster. Although the younger Yates has lost both times that he has raced his dad this season, don't expect Jamie to concede any ground when it comes to raceday. "It's scary running against that kid," Yates said. "He's young, he's good on the tree and he's done a good job each time I've raced him. There're no holds barred with him - he's doing everything he can to beat me. The one thing that hurts him is that he has to call more of his own shots when we're racing against each other. He allows the fervor of the moment to kind of get him excited which I've learned not to do, but sometimes maybe I need to do that more often. Maybe if I got a little more excited I would do a better job. "He's doing a good job right now, his car's really fast and he's been consistent getting it down the racetrack -- I know how fast he can run. It sort of worries you when you have to race against him because you know how much potential he has. If he gets it all to the track you're going to go home early." The 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals on May 4 -7 at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., is the seventh race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Same-day television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, May 7, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. "Our crew is working very well and we have the potential to win. When I started calling the shots on the car a couple of races ago I didn't feel very comfortable. Now I'm learning more about what the window is and I'm getting better. I'm really enthusiastic about going to Atlanta with these two Firebirds. There are a lot of races left and right now we have a potent stable of cars. We're ready to go."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin