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Sat, 29 Sep 2001, 01:49 AM

Jim Yates Returns to Racing at Route 66 Raceway
Courtesy of Dave Ferroni

JOLIET, Ill. -- Four days after undergoing angioplasty surgery, NHRA Pro Stock driver Jim Yates returned to competition Friday, qualifying ninth for Sunday's inaugural Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Yates admitted to some butterflies on his first of two runs. "I don't know why. I just took one day off," he said. "I was getting used to the car. The car really moved around a little bit and I was on top of it. We wanted to get the feel of the car on the first run so we could get better on the next three (qualifying runs)."

He did take a nap between runs, something he doesn't usually do. "I had more rest between runs than I did (Thursday) night," he added.

Yates, who ran 6.863 at 200.53 mph on that first run, followed with a best of 6.854 seconds at 200.32 mph in the SplitFire/PEAK Pontiac Grand Am to put him ninth. He has two more qualifying runs Saturday. The Alexandria, Va. driver is 76 points behind Pro Stock point leader Warren Johnson (1272-1196).

Yates, 48, was hospitalized last Saturday after he became ill following his No. 1 qualifying run at the AutoZone Nationals at Memphis. He underwent angioplasty surgery for a blocked artery Monday.

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