When the Jim Yates SplitFire/PEAK Racing Team rolls into Indianapolis for drag racing's most prestigious race -- U.S. Nationals, Sept. 4-7 -- two SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Firebirds will be ready to race along with a new spirit of excitement for one...
When the Jim Yates SplitFire/PEAK Racing Team rolls into Indianapolis for drag racing's most prestigious race -- U.S. Nationals, Sept. 4-7 -- two SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Firebirds will be ready to race along with a new spirit of excitement for one of the sport's most successful teams.
Yates' 21 year-old son, Jamie, will drive the team's second SplitFire/PEAK Pro Stock car at the U.S. Nationals. It will be the second race as a driver for Jamie, who made his driving debut in mid-July at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver.
Jamie, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Maryland, earned his Pro Stock driver's license in June at Roy Hill's Drag Racing School in Rockingham, N.C.
While Yates will be assisting his son, his main focus will be to seek his first U.S. Nationals victory.
"We've enjoyed plenty of success over the years," said Yates, the two-time defending NHRA Winston series champion. "But the one race that has eluded us is the U.S. Nationals, an event that all drag racers want as a victory in their portfolio."
Yates' best showing at the U.S. Nationals was in 1996 when he qualified No. 1 and advanced to the semifinal round.
"We've been extremely competitive at Indy the past four years, but things just haven't worked out for us," Yates said.
While Yates has "mixed feelings" on his season performance to date, he enters the U.S. Nationals with a new sense of optimism. He set low elapsed time of the meet at the recent NHRA VisionAire NorthStar Nationals in Brained, Minn. while qualifying No. 1 for the first time this season.
"We had our problems this season," Yates said. "But I feel the glitches have been sorted out. Right now our SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac is at the top of its game, making the necessary horsepower to win the U.S. Nationals.
"When you know you're competitive, it really gives you an extra boost, a big shot of adrenaline. This is a rejuvenated team as we head into the final stretch of the season."
Though this has not been a typical season for Yates, who dominated the Pro Stock category the past two years, it has still been a good year. He has one victory, three runner-up finishes and is in fourth place in the point standings, only four rounds out of second.
"We have a good shot at finishing second, which would be quite an accomplishment in one of the most competitive categories in drag racing," Yates said.
Yates, 45, of Alexandria, Va., has 20 career national event victories and is only one of five drivers to win two straight NHRA Winston Pro Stock series championships.