Happy March from the Yates family!!! As I sit down to write this blog it is officially spring in 4 days – which means that, for sure, warmer, sunnier weather has got to be on its way and I am really ready for that. (Of course I guess I should be thankful that I don’t live further north like many of my family and friends do!) Anyway, I couldn’t understand why the winter weather seemed so overwhelming this year and then I realized that this is probably the first time in about 25 years that I have been home all winter. Usually I am testing in Bradenton during the month of December, again in January and then by the first of February it’s time to test in Phoenix on our way to Pomona. So you see I haven’t really been inconvenienced by the winter weather much at all over the years. So what has changed?
Celebrating 40 years of marriage
In the U.S. Virgin Islands
Melissa and Lena
Well, for one thing, this is the first time in my racing career that I have missed any of the first three races of the year either as a driver or a crew chief and I have to admit, it has been a little different for me to say the least. I have talked to several teams over the past few months but to date my racing career seems to be on hold, however, you never know what opportunities may present themselves as the season progresses. So what has Jim Yates been up to in the meantime?
Since my last blog – which I am ashamed to say was some time ago – I have actually been really busy. I have been working with my younger brother Jason helping him manage his ever-expanding automotive service center in Alexandria, VA and not only am I working a lot, but I’m also having a lot of fun.
It’s kind of interesting that my Dad purchased the original station when I was in college and I used to work there for him during weekends and summer breaks. My younger brother Jason practically grew up there and over the years he and my dad worked hard to grow the business and the clientele. My dad passed away many years ago and Jason and his family have expanded the original business to include four separate, ever -growing, state of the art locations. Needless to say, when he called me and asked me if I wanted to help out a little in my “free time” I jumped at the opportunity. Hey, Toni says it keeps me out of trouble and keeps my mind off the fact that I’m not out there racing.
During my time working with Jason, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with the automotive industry which was such a big part of my life for so many years. Though I sold my auto parts business 15 years ago I still talk to a lot of my old managers who are still in the business and have actually hired some of them to work for us. How crazy is that?
So now you know what I have been doing to keep my mind off of racing, though I must admit I keep my finger on the pulse as much as I can as I am confident that I will back to the races again in the very near future.
In the meantime our family has been doing great. Toni and I had an opportunity to take a much needed vacation in January to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary (which was actually in December). We splurged and went to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and we had an awesome time. Of course, you know Toni … we had to stay active … we walked the mountainous terrain every day for 3 or more miles, swam in the pool and ocean, and then we really got hooked on ocean kayaking! I think Toni is convinced that since we live on the river, we must invest in some kayaks – which I will grudgingly admit was really pretty fun. Not sure if or when that will happen but I am sure if it does Toni will have tons of fun pictures to share of our adventures.
Other than our anniversary celebration the most exciting news in the Yates family is the arrival of our new grandbaby due, well he is due any day! Melissa, Joey and Lena May are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a little baby boy and we can’t wait! Toni already has her suitcases packed and is just waiting for the phone call that the “time” is here and she will be off to Charlotte! I am planning on going down too but probably will not stay as long as Toni plans on staying. She is excited to spend time with Lena and help her hone her big sister skills on her little brother. I mean how awesome is that? I can’t wait to finally meet little man Civali!
The rest of the grandkids are growing up so fast. Ryan is 6, Maia is 4 and Lena May just celebrated her 2nd birthday! Wow where has the time gone? I guess one positive thing about not racing is that I am home for all of the birthday parties and family get-togethers so I guess that’s a good thing huh?
Though I am staying very busy at home right now I still follow Alan Reinhart every race weekend and I still keep in touch with all of my racing buddies. I thought it was awesome that Greg Anderson won his 75th race in Gainesville this past weekend. What better way to end a winless streak than with such an amazing accomplishment. Congrats to Greg and the entire Summit team for a job well done!
I apologize to everyone for being on blog hiatus for a while. I plan on doing a better job in the future. I will make sure to keep everyone updated on Melissa’s progress over the next couple of weeks and I am sure that Toni will have tons of new pictures of our new grandbaby as soon as he arrives. Thanks so much for your patience and I hope to see everyone at a race very soon! Thanks for checking back in with me!
Greetings everyone! Hope this finds everyone enjoying some wonderful fall weather and –yikes! – getting ready for the fast approaching holidays! Did I really just say that? OK, I’ll back up a bit and catch you all up on what has been happening around the Yates household the last couple of months. I’ll start that off by talking about my favorite subject: NHRA Pro Stock.
The Countdown to the Championship is well on its way to what will most definitely be a dramatic finish to another fantastic season of NHRA drag racing. I think that almost every class will probably come down to the final rounds in Pomona before the 2014 champions are crowned. Though I haven’t been working on a contending team this year, I have been having a blast helping out my old friend, Kenny Delco with his Pontiac Pro Stock.
We started out with a quick test session in Richmond, tested again in St. Louis, raced in Indy, tested some more at Atco Raceway and finally just finished racing at one of my favorite tracks – Maple Grove Raceway! Kenny, along with his long-time friend Ronnie Caposselia, engine builder Frank Iaconio, and the rest of the crew and I have been working hard to come up with some winning combinations for this team.
Many of you don’t know this, but when I first started my Pro Stock career, Kenny Delco was one of the most dominant Pro Stock cars in competition…we actually both had Bob Ingles as our engine builder and Frank was still racing his own Ford as well. As time went by, Kenny turned his focus to his family and work, racing only when time permitted, and Frank turned to focusing his efforts on engine development where he supplied engines not only to me but to Mike Edwards as well as many other Pro Stock drivers.
I find it somewhat ironic that this circle in life brought me back to Kenny, Ronnie and Frankie. Needless to say, I have been having an awesome time. I think that we spend as much time recounting all the “remember when” stories as we do making laps on the car! LOL Anyway, all of our hard work paid off this past weekend in Maple Grove. We made four nice qualifying runs, qualified 14th, and got to race first round. All-in-all we were happy with our weekend. Unless plans change, however, this will probably be Kenny’s last race until next season but we are already gearing up for an exciting 2015 season!
Though racing has been keeping me pretty busy, Toni and I have still had time to enjoy our family – especially our grandkids. Ryan started Kindergarten this year, Maia is in preschool full time as is Lena May and before too long they will be teaching me everything I don’t know! Wow do they grow up fast. We have enjoyed trips to the zoo, backyard cookouts and a family trip to Michigan to see my nephew Jeffrey marry his long time sweetheart, Kelly.
Jim, Jeffrey, and Kelly
What a wonderful trip that was. Everyone went except Ryan and Maia who had just started school and couldn’t miss the days but we had such a great time. The wedding venue was outdoors on an Alpaca farm – yes there were really Alpaca’s roaming around – and the ceremony took place on a hilltop overlooked Lake Michigan. It was amazing. The reception was held on the grounds as well, luckily under a tent with heaters as it was really chilly there. It was one of the most unique and beautiful weddings that I have been to.
Jon was a groomsman in the wedding, Melissa did a reading, and the rest of us just enjoyed a wonderful occasion. Not only were all of my brothers and their families there, but so was my niece Jackie and her husband who lives in London. She has two beautiful children whom I had never met so I had extra kids to spoil for the weekend!
We even had a couple of extra hours to do some quick sightseeing to the famous Sleeping Bear Dunes. What an unbelievable sight that was…well that is after we hiked up the dunes so that we could see what was on the other side! Alli, Joey, Toni and I had a great time – we only wished we had planned a couple of extra days in the trip so that we could’ve seen more sights. I had no idea that Glen Arbor, MI was such a beautiful place. In all of my travels throughout the years, I have never been there and it will definitely be on our list of places to revisit in the future.
That pretty much brings you up to date on the latest news from the Yates family – well maybe there is one little bit of additional news that I need to share with you. I am going to be a Pop Pop for the fourth time! Yep – Melissa and Joey are going to have a baby boy in March! I mean how exciting is that? Lena May is so happy that she is finally going to be a big sister and Toni and I are just excited to have one more grandbaby to spoil. I mean I don’t even know what we did with ourselves before we had grandkids! I will definitely keep you updated as things progress but right now I may be on grandbaby alert from Gainesville onward next year!
Well, I am going to get Toni to pull up some pictures to share with you and hopefully will try to update you more often now that racing is winding down. Thanks so much for following our family blog – we always appreciate our loyal readers. Happy Fall!
Happy birthday Toni!
Jim, Melissa, and family
Alli and Jon
Greetings to all of my faithful blog readers out there – I know…it's been a while since I have written anything and first off I want to thank all of you for your patience! I am going to try very hard to be more diligent about posting blogs in a timelier manner. Of course, at the moment, I am not racing every weekend so I really don't have any excuses about being too busy – right?
Some of you may be asking yourselves why I am not racing in Norwalk right now, but if you have been listening to the NHRA coverage since Epping and read all of the social media venues you already know that the McGaha racing team and I have parted ways.
It has been a very interesting season so far and I appreciate all of the opportunities that the McGaha family has afforded me, however, sometimes things just don't work out the way we would all like and it soon became apparent that it was time for all of us to move in a different direction. I wish them all the best with the rest of their season.
On a more positive note, I am really not ready to retire so once again I will be waiting for that next door of opportunity to open – you never know where I may land next but I am confident that I will be out there before I can finish all the things that Toni has put on my "honey-do" list - and that list has been accumulating for quite a while.
So what has the Yates family been up to since my last blog? Well, in between the hectic race schedule we have celebrated birthdays for Toni's dad, Jamie, and Toni, visited Melissa, Joey and Lena May in Charlotte, watched Ryan graduate from Pre-school, enjoyed a quick weekend get-a-way to Skyline Drive with Toni's dad, enjoyed Ryan, Maia and our family as much as we could – other than that we haven't done much at all!
We got to visit Melissa during the Charlotte race, again after the Bristol race and Toni went down again while I was racing in Houston. Nicolina is growing up so fast and we enjoy every minute that we get to spend with her (oh – Melissa and Joey too!!!)
Of course Ryan and Maia are so much fun and we are so very blessed to be a part of their daily lives. Ryan starts kindergarten in the fall – I can't believe he is going to school already!!! Maia starts Preschool in the fall and both of the kids are so excited – wow, where has the time gone? They have been visiting Cynthy's family in NH for the past couple of weeks and boy do I miss those little guys! What's a Poppop to do without the grandbabies around to spoil?
This weekend – July 4th - we come together to commemorate the day (238 years ago) that the United States of America was born. Did you know that July 4th is the most popular holiday for grilling and that (according to the history of Independence Day) Americans consume about 155 million hotdogs on that day and that more than 14,000 firework displays will fill our skies on Friday night? Just a little trivia to share with you.
Including myself, most of us associate Independence Day with parades, cookouts, picnics, family gatherings and of course the wonderful firework displays, but July 4th is also a day where all American's can stop and give thanks for the freedom and liberties that we all enjoy today as a result of the battles fought by that first generation of today's Americans. How awesome is that?
So what are your plans for the holiday weekend? I'm not sure what Toni and I will do. Most of our family is out of town and since today is Jon and Alli's 3rd wedding anniversary (Happy Anniversary Jon and Alli!!!) I don't know if they are going to spend a weekend home or away. I think it just might be one of those weekends that if I can mark off some of the things on that ever growing "honey-do" list Toni and I will just wing it and celebrate where ever the notion takes us.
Thanks so much for checking back with me – Happy Independence Day to all of you! Stay safe, be happy and God Bless the USA!!!!
OK, I think that I have given a new meaning to "time flies when you are having fun!" I mean it seems like just yesterday that this Harlow Sammons race team had just left for Pomona and Phoenix and tomorrow I head to zMax Dragway in Concord for the Four-Wide Nationals. I can't believe that we have already completed four races this year.
To say that our new team has had an exciting year so far is an understatement. With all new equipment, a new engine program, a new racecar and basically a new crew working together, we have had quite the learning curve to overcome in a very short period of time and I couldn't be prouder of all that we have accomplished so far this season.
Chris has been doing a great job in adapting to his new Chevrolet Camaro, Big Al and Scott are working non-stop in the engine shop to keep our Mike Edwards power plants running strong, JM our IT guy is always busy solving some kind of technical problem for me and Lester, Chris, Al, Steve and I are doing our best to keep this Harlow Sammons Camaro running as fast as we can. We were so excited when we qualified on the pole in Phoenix – it was the first pole for this young team and well deserved.
Again, in Vegas, we tied Jeg for the pole but ended up No. 2 based on speed. However, the weekend was still a huge success as Chris did an awesome job driving to his first semi final finish of the year – losing a double red light to eventual race winner – Erica Enders. All-in-all I think we had a pretty good outing and now we are looking forward to getting to Charlotte where Chris gets to race in his first "four-wide".
Charlotte is always one of my favorite tracks for more than one reason. ZMax Dragway is a first class facility with a great fan base situated in a beautiful part of the country. Of course I am a little partial because Melissa, Joey and Lena May live close by and Toni and I get to stay and visit with them while we are in town. Toni and I always try to add an extra day or so to our stay so that we can catch up with everyone but more importantly we love spending time with little Lena!
Recently, Melissa and Lena came home for a short visit and it was so much fun to have all three grandkids together. They are all growing so fast and we just love every minute that we can enjoy with them. Ryan is now 5, Maia is 3 and Lena is already 14 months old! Speaking of time flying!
Other than traveling, racing and working around the shop things have been pretty quite around the Yates family. We have been trying to catch up on all of the birthdays in the family on our weekends off, celebrating Cynthy, Alli and Jon's and looking forward to Joey, Jamie and Toni's Dad's birthday in the upcoming weeks. I think I could definitely use a couple of extra weekends in the year to enjoy more family get-togethers! Just saying!
Tomorrow we leave for Charlotte and I can't wait. The "four-wide" is always an exciting race for everyone – especially the drivers. Because of the unusual format it is fast paced and keeps even the most experienced driver on his toes but it always proves to be a favorite race among the many fans in attendance. This Harlow Sammons team is looking forward to their first "four-wide" and maybe making it to their first final round appearance! Now that's what I am talking about! Thanks so much for checking in and if you are at Zmax this weekend please stop by the McGaha pits and say hi!