Good test results give Yates confidence going to Las Vegas
Competitive Elapsed Times, Responsive Chassis Please Pro Stock Driver

Any drag racing fans in the vicinity of Commerce, Ga., Monday might've been surprised to see the number of Pro Stock rigs in the parking lot.  But the Southern Nationals race isn't scheduled for another six weeks.

That didn't prevent Jim Yates and nine other drivers from making tests runs at Atlanta Dragway - 2,000 miles and just four days away from the start of the Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  For Yates and his Sea Ray Boats/B&W Pontiac Grand Am team, it was a stop they were happy they made.

"We made seven runs. We changed tires, gear ratios and tuned on the engine and the car went straight down the racetrack every run," said Yates.  "We were pleasantly surprised. It was our best day testing since the season began."

That is good news for Yates, who struggled with the setup on the new Rick Jones chassis since he made his first run Feb. 1.  What he's discovered is the Jones chassis does not react like the Jerry Bickel chassis he used in previous years. 

"We've been working to make our car better and figure out what it wants in certain situations, and then go with those changes," said Yates.  "I think we've done better.  We are pretty content with what we're seeing.  We ran comparable times to several of the cars in Monday's test session - cars that are ahead of us in points. 

"We still aren't where we want to be," he continued.  "We have to make more runs, but the car is responding better.  We need to align the variable equations - the car, tune-up and horsepower.  While we're working on the car, (engine builder) Bob Ingles is busy working on finding more horsepower.  I'm confident when we get everything together we'll be where we want to be."

That would be a championship contender, and it's still a viable ambition with 20 of 23 POWERade Series events remaining.  Yates, with two stellar starting-line moves in the opening rounds at Gainesville, Fla. (March 21), advanced to the semifinals and boosted himself into the top 10.   He's ninth with 132 points, 11 out of seventh and 53 shy of fourth position in a tight bunch of contenders.

"I was happy to get into the top 10," Yates said after defeating Larry Morgan and Kurt Johnson with quicker starting-line reactions. "It only took us three races this year.  It took us 17 races last year (when he finished ninth)."

In seven outings at The Strip, Yates' best showing is runner-up in April 2001.  He was a semifinalist in October 2001 and April 2002.

With good test results and a chassis responding to changes, Yates just might be in the running for the race win this time around.  He'll roll the dice and take his chances.