Sonoma Jim Yates Post Race Interview

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) We've run really well at this track over the years and we've been in a lot of finals here, so I think we have a pretty good book on the track. But one thing you know about Sonoma is that it always ...

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) We've run really well at this track over the years and we've been in a lot of finals here, so I think we have a pretty good book on the track. But one thing you know about Sonoma is that it always changes. Every hour the weather changes, the track changes; it's just drastic. You have to be willing to adapt to that and that's what we did here today. We changed gear ratios twice, we changed the chassis around a bunch, and we just adapted to what we saw. We went out there, and we thought we had a good fast car in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird, but every time we saw something we could do to improve, we changed it. I was really excited with the 6.96 we ran in the semi-finals. I thought we ran good enough to get lane choice, but Kurt (Johnson) and Warren (Johnson) have so much power that we lost lane choice by less than a hundredth of a second. But I think some of that power may have come back to bite them in the finals because I think that this racetrack could only take so much, and they may have over powered the racetrack.

How did your past wins here help you today? In general, when you get to the final here, each round is different. First round is usually pretty good. In the second round the track just goes to the gutter. In the third round it picks up a little bit, but in the final, it's a whole different book. You have to go back to what you ran on Friday or Saturday night for the really fast runs. We've got a lot of rounds, probably more than anybody in eliminations at this racetrack over the last five years in Pro Stock, so it helps us when we try and select a set up. We changed gear ratios for the semi final round and picked up three to four hundredths. That let Kurt know that we were serious and we could run fast. I think the fact that we ran that 6.96 came from years of running here and knowing what to do when the track gets real bad in the semis here. Then we came out in the final, the track got really good, and we just loaded it up with clutch and I think we made a pretty good run. But I don't think we over do it. The more runs you get on any race track the better you're going to do. This isn't rocket science. It's just like going to high school or college. The more you study, the better you're going to do. We've got more homework on this racetrack than anybody else and I think that comes into play.

Did winning the semi-final round give you confidence going into the final? We looked at our ladder today and thought that we were in deep trouble. We were racing some pretty tough cars out there. We had to run Jeggie (Coughlin) in the second round, and then we had to run either Warren (Johnson) or Mike Edwards in the semi final. Edwards had been running really consistent on this racetrack. We knew we had a really tough run against Mike and we just went into the can and changed the whole combination around. Mike and that team, they have a great car, they have good power and they have a great driver, so you have to go up there and hit on all eight to get around them. Fortunately today we had lane choice, and that helped us get by him, but it was only by five-thousandths of a second. That was a close race - that was a nail biter. I didn't know for sure if we got the win light, but when you go down through there and the win light comes on it's like ecstasy. It's worth all the work.

Can you do anything different in a close race like that to get an advantage? I don't know whether it helps or not, but I have real good peripheral vision which is very bad for a drag racer. It's good for a bracket racer because that's what I spent 20 years of my life doing. In bracket racing, when you leave the starting line, you're always watching the other car to see where he's at so you can pace him down the race track. Now I've spent 10 years Pro Stock racing and I constantly have a problem when I get in a close race of seeing that other car. Against Mike, when I put it in third gear, we were like five by five and I ended up running the motor up to like 9500 rpm which is way to high. It actually shook the tire a little bit when I put it in fourth gear and then it went almost to 9600 rpm when I put it in fifth gear. Old habits are hard to break. I wish I could put blinders on and go down through there but I can't and I think that sometimes takes some of the performance away because I'm distracted in a close race and actually over rev the motor. It took a thousandth of a second away but we could have lost the race by two thousandths.

Did your final round at Seattle last weekend help you today? It's just like anything else. We've made a lot of laps on both of these racetracks. The track conditions here on the West Coast are a lot alike. The tracks are really porous, they get a lot of sunshine this time of year and the conditions just vary a bunch between 11 o'clock in the morning and 5 o'clock at night. It goes to completely bad and then comes back pretty good. So we had four rounds in Seattle, and with the exception of Kurt, that was more than anyone else and I think that helps. The more rounds you get in competition, the better you're going to do. And one more thing, this is a brand new car for us. We've been in four national events with it, we've been in three finals and had two wins. Having those rounds under our belt with this car is helping us close that gap. If we go to a national event and only get four qualifying runs and lose in the first round, it's going to take us three national events to get what we got in the last two. When you get a lot more experience with these track conditions, with this car, with these clutch discs, with this transmission, it's a tremendous benefit to have a lot of success at one time and it builds upon itself. The more you win the easier it is to win because you have that experience going for you.

Does this give you momentum going into the last part of the season? We've always done well on the Western swing over the years, but our season has been up and down. Now we seem to have turned the corner and now we're coming back. I'm not going to say we're back and that we're going to kick Warren's tail for the rest of the season, because I think that would be too optimistic. But I do think we can make a dent in the program, and if we can beat some of the other cars out here then maybe we can make a race out of it. But Warren's got a pretty good lead in the points race right now. When we won St. Louis, I told everybody that what we had to do was win races. That's our goal right now. Win rounds and win races. If we can do that then we can win a championship. But he has such a big lead that he will be tough to catch. Right now, we're focussing on Brainerd, and we're going to go in there and put 100% behind it and try and win there. Then we'll worry about Indy after that. We can't look too far ahead.

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) When you get on a race track that's slightly marginal and really not that bad, and then try to run real fast, the window that you have to operate in is very small. Anytime you get outside of that box, you flirt with danger. Apparently we just tripped over the edge some place.

We put a little bit of clutch in because we slipped so badly in the first round. The track went away just enough that the additional clutch just grabbed a hold of it because there wasn't enough track to hold the tires. It shook instantly. On the computer it was shaking two-tenths of a second into the run, so I wasn't even off the starting line before it was shaking. Hindsight is always 20-20, but there's really not a whole lot we can do except back the horsepower down and that absolutely goes against my grain! Lost in round two

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Mike Edwards