Houston Jim Yates Preview

New engine has Yates in hot pursuit of leaders HOUSTON (April 2, 1999) -- Jim Yates has good reason to be optimistic after three of the 22 NHRA Winston Series events. The new Bob Ingles-built engine that powers his SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Pro ...

New engine has Yates in hot pursuit of leaders

HOUSTON (April 2, 1999) -- Jim Yates has good reason to be optimistic after three of the 22 NHRA Winston Series events. The new Bob Ingles-built engine that powers his SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Pro Stocker continues to bring smiles in the Yates camp.

"The new motor has a ton of potential and I think we've only scratched the surface," Yates said after advancing to the semifinals of the Gatornationals (at Gainesville, Fla., March 21), the second race on the power plant. "We're still learning what (kind of combination) the engine wants. We've been chasing the tune-up on this engine quite a bit."

A round of testing was scheduled to better prepare Yates and his crew for the next event, the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, April 9-11. "Our goal is to get qualified at each race and then win as many rounds as we can," commented Yates.

"We tuned the motor a little differently on race day in Gainesville and it ran consistent and fast. We're creeping up on it a little bit at a time. We just have to go to every race and run just a little bit faster each time out."

Yates opened the Gatornationals qualifying with runs of 6.97 and 6.98 seconds before making some tuning changes for Saturday's two rounds. The engine responded with back-to-back 6.92 runs at 198 mph. The quickest run, 6.921 seconds (at 198.82 mph) put him fourth in the 16-car field. And Yates went quicker on race day. He used a 6.917 at 199.02 mph to beat Tom Martino in the first round and a 6.897, 199.37 mph to eliminate Greg Anderson in the second round.

In a semifinal match against Johnson, Yates' 6.939 at 199.23 couldn't catch Johnson's 6.896 at 199.91. Johnson went on to win the race.

"It's going to take us a little while to turn this engine program into something special," said Yates, the two-time Winston Pro Stock series champion (1996 & 1998). "Other teams have had a lot of time working with their current engines and we've only had two races with ours, so we can't expect to run quite as good as some of them. But give us two or three more races and maybe we can close that gap and make a run for the championship. We have to keep pushing the envelope (with the tune-up). We have to know where the edge is. Once we find it, then we can back up a little bit and stay safe."

The SplitFire/PEAK team is fifth in points with 180. Kurt Johnson, Warren's son, leads with 311 and the elder Johnson is third with 254.

But Yates believes he'll soon have the performance to challenge Johnson and the other leaders. It may happen at Houston Raceway Park. As far as Yates is concerned, the sooner the better.

Qualifying is scheduled at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

Jim Yates

1999 Pro Stock Record Standing: 5th, 180 points Round Record: 4W -3L Quickest ET: 6.897, Gainesville, Fla. Fastest Speed: 199.37 mph, Gainesville

Career Pro Stock Record First Season: 1989 Best Season Finish: 1st -- 1996 and 1997 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: 199.46,1998, Gainesville

At Houston (Spring Race) Best Finish: Runner-up, 1995 Best ET/Speed: 6.882/198.89, 1998

Personal Age: 45 Birthdate: July 9, 1953 Residence: Alexandria, Va. Family: Wife: Toni Children: Jamie (4/28/77) Melissa (8/5/80) Jon (3/31/83)

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson