Memphis: AutoZone Nationals Pro Stock preview

Yates Reviving Championship Career MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Entering the 2000 season, Jim Yates had earned two NHRA Winston Pro Stock championships, won at least one national event for five straight years, and his 22 career wins ranked him ...

Yates Reviving Championship Career

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Entering the 2000 season, Jim Yates had earned two NHRA Winston Pro Stock championships, won at least one national event for five straight years, and his 22 career wins ranked him fifth all-time among Pro Stock competitors. Then the 2000 racign season began. By the conclusion of that year, Yates had finished eighth in the final standings, his worst placing since '93, had 13 first round losses, and a dreaded DNQ (did not qualify). It was an entirely uncharacteristic season for a driver who had finished in the top four in the standings for six straight seasons Something had to change.

So, Yates changed his body. Enter the new aerodynamic body on his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am introduced at the start of the 2001 season The 48-year-old Yates will bring his new Grand Am and hopes of a third championship to Memphis Motorsports Park for the 14th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Sept. 20-23. The $1.9 million race, the 19th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Yates, from Arlington, Va., has been at or near the top of the standings in the ultra-competitive category for the majority of the tumultuous Pro Stock season. He ended his winless streak earlier this year in Atlanta and has been the runner-up on four other occasions. Yates believes his turn-around can be credited to his new vehicle. "The Grand Am is the best race car I've ever owned," said Yates, who has been racing since the age of 16. "It's as good as either of the Firebirds I won championships in. It's an incredibly balanced race car that gets up and down the track and has won us a lot of rounds. It's a combination of old and new." With the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season winding down, the Pro Stock championship picture is becoming clearer with several competitors beginning to distance themselves from the rest of the field. Perennial favorite and five-time Winston champ Warren Johnson continues his always-impressive performance as he leads the way heading into the final few events. Longtime racer Bruce Allen has rejuvenated his career as he makes a push towards the top with tuner-turned-racer Mike Edwards jumping back into the driver's seat this year with an extraordinary performance to rank among the leaders in the standings. No one is counting out a late season charge from last year's champ, Jeg Coughlin Jr., but Yates knows that the biggest battle will be between himself and 'The Professor'. "You know, this championship could come down to me and Warren racing in the semifinals or the finals at (the season-ending event in) Pomona (Calif.)," said Yates. "It's nice to be in a position where the championship is in our grasp. We don't have to depend on Warren messing up. If we do our job, then we can win the championship and not depend on anybody or anything but the work that we do. Maybe we won't win it all, but through planning and hard work we've been fortunate enough to put ourselves in this position."

-NHRA-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Bruce Allen , Mike Edwards