Pontiac Driver Looks for Sponsors

By: Lauren Woods

Auto racing needs talent. Making tight turns at a breakneck speed takes a lot of talent and a touch of luck. But another thing that auto racers need in order for them to compete at high level is money.

Money comes from sponsors and a lack of sponsors means that less money will be coming in and therefore, auto race engineers will have a tight budget in making a race car perform better and beat everybody else on the tracks. This is the current problem being faced by champion driver Jim Yates. Currently competing at the ongoing NHRA POWERade tour, the two-time NHRA Pro-Stock champion Yates is looking for sponsors for his campaign next year.

Although there are rumors that Yates will be calling it a day, he quickly maintained that he will not be leaving the tracks anytime soon. "Contrary to some reports, I'm not quitting or retiring," says the grizzled veteran. "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," added Yates.

Looking back on their team's financial status, Yates explained that past mishaps has led to questions about him giving up racing. "We had some very positive opportunities lined up at the end of last year, but, unfortunately they just didn't work out," explained Yates. "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."

Currently, Yates is driving a Pontiac GTO - one of the most iconic muscle cars ever created. Yates' GTO's power is presumably more than stock GTOs equipped with the intake system. According to Yates, his GTO will not be leaving the track if he can do anything about it. "My plan is not to go home, sell our race cars, sell our tractor-trailer and go get a job," says Yates. "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."

Speaking about the fate of their team for the current season, Yates pointed out that they have but a few sponsors which can be quite enough to support them until the end of the year. In order to increase the number of their sponsors, Yates needs to perform exceptionally well to attract backing sponsors. "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," Yates said. "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."

Looking back on their last season, Yates pointed out that they have to attract sponsors in order for them to become a major contender toward the final and most important leg of the season. He said that his team is hoping for a good solution to their current sponsorship problem. "We are very optimistic about our opportunities but we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach for the next few weeks," says Yates. "As a team we expect to come out here, qualify in the top half of the field, win rounds on race day 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," he concludes.

All in all, Yates is looking to further his career in auto racing. He already has an impressive resume as a Pro Stock driver. In his run for his two championships, he has amassed numerous wins and other stats any driver would surely respect. With that in mind, he is dedicated to stay longer in his profession and is hopeful that the lack of sponsorship will not keep him out of the tracks. "I am used to competing at the top," says 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," says Yates in finale.

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