Yates advances to quarterfinals at Topeka
Topeka, Sunday: Just when Jim Yates thought he was beginning to get a handle on how to run his SplitFire/Peak Pro Stock Pontiac, it threw him another curve.
Such was the case Sunday in the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Yates did reach the quarterfinals - thanks to a hole-shot victory over Scott Geoffrion in the first round before learning the car's combination didn't work on a less-than-perfect racing surface.
Yates had a .018-second reaction time to Geoffrion's .063 and it was enough to get the win light with a 6.857 at 201.43 to Geoffrion's quicker 6.837 at 201.94. Against eventual runner-up Kurt Johnson, Yates' Pontiac shook the tires hard and he slowed to 7.167 at 198.17 against eventual race runner-up Kurt Johnson's 6.833 at 202.39.
"The car ran really well at Englishtown (N.J.) last weekend and when we tested at St. Louis on Wednesday but when the track got bad here, the car stopped responding to the tune-up," said Yates. "We made a lot of changes from Saturday night until Sunday morning. We switched motors, carburetors, transmissions and rebuilt the rear end.
"I don't think we made any progress this weekend. We're going to stay and test Monday to verify what we learned."
Yates is 12th in NHRA POWERade points with 325.
Yates qualifies seventh
Topeka, Saturday: It still isn't perfect, but Jim Yates was pleased to be starting his third straight NHRA Pro Stock race in the top half of the field for Sunday's O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Yates' SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Grand Am was seventh (6.855 seconds at 200.59 mph) and meets Scott Geoffrion in Round 1. Geoffrion was 10th, 6.857 at 201.10.
"We are really making some progress in tuning our car," Yates said. "We've been making some changes to try and make it run faster. We changed carburetors and gear ratios before our last qualifying run but it didn't make a good run. We were about four-hundredths (of a second) off on the performance so we'll be dissecting the car to get ready for eliminations. We don't want to overlook something simple
"The carburetors we used on the last run weren't as good. I believe we have a chance of going rounds Sunday," he added. ."
Yates excited following excellent outing at Englishtown
Topeka, pre-race: Good elapsed times can turn frowns into smiles immediately. Those smiles, however, may not last much longer than the next quarter-mile run.
Jim Yates has been waiting for good elapsed times almost all of this NHRA POWERade Series season. It has been, to be sure, one that has tested the patience and determination of this two-time Pro Stock champion (1996-97).
Well, he finally got his good e.t. slips last weekend at Englishtown, N.J., where the track and weather conditions were ideally suiting for quick and fast performances. And now the series has moved to Heartland Park Topeka's drag racing venue, Yates must see if the lessons learned apply to this track during the running of the O'Reilly Summer Nationals, Friday through Sunday.
"Going to Topeka, I think we have a pretty fast racecar that's capable of qualifying in the top half of the field and winning rounds of eliminations," Yates said of his SplitFire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am.
Yates, his family and crew weren't able to think that way a short time ago. He missed three of the first six races, but began turning things around three weeks ago at Atlanta. He qualified seventh, his first placing in the top half of the 16-car field in 2003, and was pleased with the lessons learned.
Everything fell into place at Englishtown when Yates made three of the quickest runs of his career during qualifying, topped by the 6.715-second, 204.79-mph performance that put him third overall. He also had runs of 6.715 and 6.736 seconds.
On race day, he beat Barry Grant with a 6.726 at a career-best 205.29 mph in the first round and then came up five-thousandths of a second too soon in reaction time against Darrell Alderman in the quarterfinals and fouled out. But he did run 6.753 at 205.01.
"The track there was very good and I think that made a difference," said Yates about his red light. There were an unusually large number of fouls 16 overall in the four pro categories on race day. "I decided to go to the starting line and do all I could. I let the clutch out when I normally do but the track was better (and so was the traction).
"We are picking up some momentum," said Yates. "It started at Atlanta and continued at Englishtown where we held our own. We'll slow down at Topeka because of track and temperature differences. The times should be in the low 6.80s.
"We want to get the right combination to run well and win this weekend. Judging from the times at Englishtown the whole Pro Stock class has moved forward. It's tough out there."
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