Excitement pulses through Jim Yates' camp

POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 26, 2000) - There's a new wave of excitement pulsing through Jim Yates' Pro Stock camp as it prepares to launch the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) 2000 season. It's enough to make Yates, a two-time Winston...

POMONA, Calif. (Jan. 26, 2000) - There's a new wave of excitement pulsing through Jim Yates' Pro Stock camp as it prepares to launch the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) 2000 season. It's enough to make Yates, a two-time Winston Series champion (1996-97), believe his SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac will be in the thick of the championship hunt throughout the 23-race campaign. The reasons for the high levels of enthusiasm include: 1)The addition of former Pro Stock driver Rickie Smith as crew chief; 2) The impressive test-session performances of Yates' new Don Ness chassis; 3) Major progress in the engine department, where builder Bob Ingles will have five power plants ready for competition; 4) Adding a second SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac for son Jamie Yates to drive; 5) Having the cast removed from Jim's left thumb in time for the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals, Feb. 3-6, at Pomona Raceway. "We are excited about the new season," Yates said. "We really worked hard all winter. We've been focusing our energy on trying to make a run for the championship. I thought we were missing some very key pieces . . . until this year. "Our motor program has moved forward so that we now have enough motors to run two cars. Adding the Ness car gives us more breadth in our arsenal to go with the Jerry Bickel car we ran last year, and it gives Jamie a good car to drive (Bickel's)," Yates continued. "And having Rickie as crew chief is definitely going to help. He brings talent to the team and that helps take some of the load off me. He's a tremendously resourceful individual who has a wealth of knowledge." Smith, a longtime Pro Stock racer and tuner from King, N.C., drove in selected NHRA races last year, winning the national event in Houston in October. He placed in the NHRA top 10 four times in the 1990s, with a best of fifth place in 1996. He is also a five-time IHRA national champion. A combination of additional horsepower from the Ingles motors and the Ness chassis carried Yates to his quickest and fastest runs during winter test sessions in Sarasota, Fla., helping fuel the optimism of his Alexandria, Va.-based team. "We spent two four-day test sessions in Florida and our car definitely showed some great potential," Yates said. "Our best time was 6.81 seconds and our top speed was 202.83 mph." Yates would like to duplicate those numbers all year. Both the time and speed are quicker than the current NHRA Pro Stock marks of 6.822 seconds and 202.36 mph. Jamie Yates, an engineering student at the University of Maryland, has run only a handful of races in the past two years. He entered three races in 1999 and qualified once. "We are going to attempt to run Jamie's car all season," said Jim. "Having Jamie's car gives us the opportunity to try different motor and carburetor parts that I have total control over. That way we will be able to do some testing during national events." Jim Yates, meanwhile, didn't let a severed tendon in his left thumb - suffered during December testing - stop him from driving the SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac. "My driving with the cast on my hand was a bit erratic, but the cast is now off," he reported. "I have a splint on the thumb (hurt in a freak accident while he worked on his car in Florida) now and the doctor said I can take that off when I drive. My finger should be working fine by the time we get to Pomona. It won't affect my driving." And it certainly hasn't put a damper on the team's outlook going into the Winternationals.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jamie Yates , Rickie Smith