St. Louis: GM Racing preview

Pontiac's Jim Yates Upbeat Heading to NHRA Event at Gateway International Raceway Two-time NHRA Pro Stock Champion Looks to the Future with Optimism As the 23-race NHRA POWERade tour leaves Atlanta Dragway and heads north up I-75 for next ...

Pontiac's Jim Yates Upbeat Heading to NHRA Event at Gateway International Raceway

Two-time NHRA Pro Stock Champion Looks to the Future with Optimism

As the 23-race NHRA POWERade tour leaves Atlanta Dragway and heads north up I-75 for next weekend's event outside St. Louis at Gateway International Raceway, two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jim Yates finds himself at a racing crossroads that many drivers have faced before, competing with others for the precious funding that is the lifeblood for any professional racer. But the veteran remains upbeat and optimistic as he prepares his Pontiac GTO for a racetrack where he's had success in the past, besting Allen Johnson for the win in 1999 as well as finishing runner-up to Warren Johnson both in 1997 and 2001.

"Contrary to some reports, I'm not quitting or retiring," Yates said. "I want to race, (son) Jamie wants to race, (wife) Toni wants to race, Grumpy (engine builder Bill Jenkins) wants to race. We love to race and we think we have something good together. Unfortunately, not only do you need half-inch wrenches in your toolbox, you also need money in your toolbox. It's no secret that to run at the winning level of Pro Stock it takes the proper funding and in the past we have proven that we've got the talent to run with the best cars out here.

"We had some very positive opportunities lined up at the end of last year, but, unfortunately they just didn't work out. As a result, it left our program in a hole financially. We still love what we are doing and we are still the same talented team that has won POWERade championships and national event races in the past. Bill (Jenkins) continues to improve the horsepower in our engines every week and our new Pontiac GTO is working better than ever. We're really excited about our program and the potential we have and we'd love to have the money to stay out here and race."

According to Yates, "My plan is not to go home, sell our race cars, sell our tractor-trailer and go get a job. But if we don't have the finances to come out here and race at the level we're used to, then we're going to go home, park our stuff and spend seven days a week looking for a sponsor so that we can come out here and once again take our place among the top Pro Stock teams in the country. Unfortunately, you need money to race with the top teams; talent only goes so far.

"We've been in a good position with the six-race program we had with Sea Ray Boats and WileyX Eyewear, and we've got that extended for a couple more races, which is really good for us," says Yates. "Beyond that we've got three deals working that could carry us through to the end of the year. I've been working really hard on an exciting program for next year, and we're probably thirty days from finding out if that's going to happen, but unfortunately, no one has signed on the dotted line yet.

"We are very optimistic about our opportunities but we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach for the next few weeks. As a team we expect to come out here, qualify in the top half of the field, win rounds on raceday and be in the 'Countdown' by Indy. We had a really great season last year. We were as high as No. 2 in points but unfortunately we didn't have the funding in place needed to carry us through the year at that level. Still, we won the Pontiac Nationals in Columbus (Ohio) and ended up seventh in the POWERade points. Our objective this year is to be in a position where we're able to compete as a top-half car and win rounds and win races."

Yates has one of the more impressive resumes among the Pro Stock pits. He has been racing sixteen years and during that time has finished in the top five of the POWERade points eight times and finished in the top 10 fourteen times. He has won 25 races, been runner-up 33 times, has won two POWERade championships, and qualified No. 1 at 29 events. Yates also recorded his 400th round win at Las Vegas last month, placing him behind only the father-son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson among active Pro Stock drivers.

"I am used to competing at the top", said Yates. "The only way to continue to do that is to find the proper funding. Rather than stay out here surviving on a shoestring budget, trying to get to the next race, and not being able to afford the people, the parts and the things we need to be competitive, our attitude right now as a team, is perhaps we need to take a step back. I am confident, that given this situation, if we focus all of our energies on searching for funding instead of racing, when we do come back in a week, a month, or a year, we can go out there and compete at the highest level.

"I'm very optimistic and excited about our program, our team and what we have to offer the sport. I think that we have some great opportunities in the future and my plan is to explore every one of them - hopefully without missing a beat, or a race."

GM RACING STATS AND FACTS

. Based on the strength of its Cobalts in the Super Stock category, Chevrolet leads the NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings with 1480 points. Through May 1, 16 competitors in the Super Stock category driving Chevy Cobalts have contributed 900 points earned at NHRA divisional and national meets toward the 2007 Manufacturer's Cup, and Chevrolet leads its closest competitor in the standings by 800 points.

. Pro Stock competitors in GM-branded cars have reset or tied track records at five of the six venues already contested this season. Greg Anderson's Pontiac GTO tied teammate Jason Line's Pomona (Calif.) track-record e.t. of 6.634 seconds, Line's Pontiac set the Phoenix (Ariz.) e.t. track record with a run of 6.634 seconds, Anderson's Pontiac set a national-record e.t. of 6.536 seconds at Gainesville (Fla.), Jeg Coughlin's Chevy Cobalt ran a track-record 6.649 seconds at Houston, and Anderson's Pontiac established a new Atlanta Dragway mark of 6.627

seconds. . Pontiac teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line have reset top-speed records at all six venues this year (using GM DRCE3 horsepower). Anderson's track-record runs came at Pomona, Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas and Atlanta, and Line's GTO set a national-record top speed of 211.69 mph at Gainesville Raceway (Fla.).

. Eight drivers in GM-branded cars hold a spot in the top 10 of the Pro Stock standings and seven drivers are in the elite eight. Greg Anderson (Pontiac) leads the pack with 602 points, Jason Line (Pontiac) is in second place with 390 points, Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Chevrolet) is in third place with 371 points, Dave Connolly (Chevrolet) is fourth with 363 points and Warren Johnson (Pontiac) is fifth with 298 points. Mike Edwards (Pontiac) is in sixth place with 296 points, Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet) is seventh with 291 points and Greg Stanfield (Pontiac) is 10th with 273 points. A margin of 212 points separates first place from second place, while a margin of only 117 points separates second place from 10th place.

. Greg Anderson's win at Atlanta was Pontiac's 176th all time in the NHRA Pro Stock category, and the three-time NHRA POWERade champion's fourth victory this season.

. Anderson's Pontiac set both ends of the Atlanta Dragway track record with an elapsed time of 6.627 seconds and a top speed of 208.71 mph. Anderson holds the track e.t. record at seven NHRA venues and the top speed record at 11 sites.

. Staggering statistics on Anderson over the last four years show that the Summit Racing Pontiac driver has won 44 percent (43 out of 98) of his races, and qualified in the No. 1 spot at 52 percent of the contests he's entered (51 out of 98) since his first championship title in 2003.

. Anderson has the longest active qualifying streak in Pro Stock at 99 races. Jason Line has the second longest active streak in Pro Stock at 79.

. During a Hall of Fame induction weekend, Warren Johnson advanced to his 150th career final round at the Summit Racing Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. It was the eighth career final round appearance at Atlanta Dragway for the GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver (he's won the race five times).

. Warren Johnson won the inaugural meet at Gateway International Raceway in 1997 and again in 2001.

. Seven current competitors in GM-branded Pro Stock cars have posted wins at Gateway International Raceway including Warren Johnson, Ron Krisher (2000, 2003), Kurt Johnson (1998, 2005), Greg Anderson (2004), Jeg Coughlin (2002), Jim Yates (1999) and defending champion Mike Edwards.

. Anderson's elapsed time of 6.692 seconds set in a Pontiac in June 2006 is the current track record at Gateway International Raceway, and Anderson's top speed of 206.23 mph, also set in June 2006 is the current track record.

. Chevrolet's Del Worsham raced in his 500th and 501st career Funny Car rounds during final eliminations at Atlanta Dragway.

. Del Worsham won the Funny Car eliminator at Gateway International Raceway in 2003, and Tony Pedregon is a two-time winner of the event capturing victories in 2001 and 2006.

. Chevrolet Funny Car drivers in the top 10 include Tony Pedregon (2nd place), Jeff Arend (7th place), Del Worsham (9th place) and Cruz Pedregon (10th place).

-credit: gm racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Jeff Arend , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards