NEW CAR'S PERFORMANCE BRINGS YATES GREAT EXPECTATIONS Career-best Elapsed Time, No. 1 Qualifying Spot at First Race Fuel Title Hopes PHOENIX, Ariz., Feb. 23, 2005 - There's a spring in his step and an ever-ready smile on his face. Jim Yates...
NEW CAR'S PERFORMANCE BRINGS YATES GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Career-best Elapsed Time, No. 1 Qualifying Spot at First Race Fuel Title Hopes
PHOENIX, Ariz., Feb. 23, 2005 - There's a spring in his step and an ever-ready smile on his face.
Jim Yates has a competitive Pro Stock Pontiac again.
He showed it at Pomona, Calif., almost two weeks ago, when he rocketed his way to the top of the qualifying ladder -- surprising not only himself and his B&W Grand Am team, but his peers as well. He did it in fine fashion, clicking off the quickest run (6,699 seconds) of his 15-year career and, what was at the time, the best Pro Stock elapsed time in Pomona Raceway's 45-years.
"I can't wait to get to Phoenix," said Yates of the upcoming Checkers Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird Raceway, Friday through Sunday. "I've been working on my reaction times with my practice [starting line) lights, trying to improve my times. Steve Schmidt, our engine builder, worked on the motors and found more horsepower in time for this race."
Until last year, an anomaly in his NHRA POWERade Series history, Yates had finished out of the top five just twice in 10 years. He was runner-up in 2001 and 2002, and ninth in 2003, but he struggled like never before in 2004, winding up 16th.
He was not happy, but he was determined to resume what had become his yearly role -- a perennial title contender -- as soon as possible. Judging from his Winternationals performance, he advanced to the quarterfinals and is fifth in points (58), he's back with the potential to be a viable title contender as the remaining 22 races unfold.
Schmidt helped steer him in the proper direction with much-needed horsepower and Jerry Haas provided a superb Grand Am chassis, one that Yates and his son/crew chief Jamie found easy to tune.
"We did get a great start to the season, but now we must go from there," said Yates. "We've always worked hard. You must if you want to be competitive in this tough class. The only reason you work hard is because you hope to have some success. It's nice to have some success. I'm excited about our performance.
"Jerry Haas built us a great racecar and Schmidt gave us the horsepower," he continued. "We had less than 20 hits (on the throttle) testing before Pomona, and that's very low for us. We usually like to make 50 to 100 runs before the start of the season."
The Yates team does have a plethora of records and vast knowledge of setting up racecars. They applied that to the chassis, and it responded.
"If we can build on that foundation, we should have a good year," Yates forecast. "We need to figure out what to do with the car in certain situations and we should be right up there (with the series leaders). We are pretty excited right now. We're eager to go racing again."
That's an emotion Yates, a three-time winner at Firebird Raceway (1996-98), hasn't had in a long time.