No Trailer, No Tow Bar, No Problem!

August 12th, 2011

Text by Pete Ward

Photos Courtesy of PSCA and Pete Ward

Drag Racing Practically Pain-Free

When Las Vegas racer Jim Yankers mentions A/C with regards to his race car, he isn’t referring to Altered Coupe. He really does mean “air conditioning.”

His ‘02 Camaro Z28 is a perfect example of how you can race a weekly schedule, not overexert yourself or your pocket book, have big fun and possibly win some races in the process.

Jim found his ride on a California used car lot in 2008 with 70,000 miles on the odometer, and has been racing its wheels off ever since. It runs in the 12s at over 100 mph and is so stock you wouldn’t believe it. In fact, looking at the photos, if it weren’t for the decals and Jim’s name on the window, you wouldn’t know it was a race car.

The only modifications are an SLP cold air induction system, a cat-back exhaust system, rear gear ratio change to 3.73s and Mickey Thompson street radials.  There are no shift kit, trans break, line lock, headers or electronics of any kind. Even the wheels are stock! The heads have never been off the engine. A trip to the dyno recorded 326 hp at the rear wheels on pump gas.

If it weren’t for the lettering, numbers and decals, you’d think Jim Yanders’ Camaro would be more at home attending a picnic in the park, rather than competing at a drag strip. The Mickey Thompson Street Radials mounted on stock rims are the only other clue to this vehicle’s racing nature.

On race day he drives to the track, never opens the hood and runs the A/C clear up until he does his burnout and leaves the line with the transmission in Drive. Recently at The Strip, his Vegas home track, he made 19 passes in three hours. Instead of thrashing in the pits, he’s making laps.

This guy’s a racer, competing in at least 25 events a year. He’d do even more if The Strip didn’t limit its summer schedule. He’s a regular participant in the Summit Wicked HP Championship Series Sportsman Class, currently ninth in a field of over 40 racers. He also runs the Pacific Street Car Association’s events, competing in both Bracket 1 and Trophy classes. He drives his Camaro to Phoenix, Arizona, and Bakersfield, California, to compete in NHRA Division and PSCA events.

Jim’s biggest success came in PSCA Trophy class competition at The Strip. In May 2010 he won the association’s big event, and in 2008 he took the Fall Nationals trophy.

This view of the Camaro isn’t seen at Jim’s home track, The Strip in Las Vegas. He prefers to make laps rather than slave in the pits under the merciless Vegas sun. The SLP air induction system is the one and only “speed part” on his engine. Investment past the $10,000 purchase is negligible.

His 2008 win came 50 years after his previous victory. In 1958, driving a hopped-up ’58 Chevy Impala on the dry lakes of El Mirage, he took home a trophy awarded by the Rosetta Timing Association, which reads: “1st Place 129.496 MPH GOC Coupe & Sedan.”  This stood as a class record. His partner in the endeavor? Drag Racer’s very own Tom “The Mongoo$e” McEwen.  He and the Goose had been friends since grade school, and later in life, members of Long Beach’s Marron Street Marauders. If you’ve read the “Mongoo$e Journals,” here in the magazine, or the Mongoose’s book, you know Jim. They had many adventures together, including a near-death experience coming home from the 1957 NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City.

Only 15 years old, he started drag racing at the fabled Santa Ana drag strip in 1953 in his folks’ ’51 Ford coupe.  By the early ‘60s he’d competed at nearly every track in Southern California, including Lions before it was officially open, and many more further up the coast. The Vietnam War and his subsequent marriage ended his racing career.

In 1990 he moved to Las Vegas and eventually hooked up with the Bowties (Chevys not neckwear) of Southern Nevada car club.  Eventually the lure of his “old love” drew him back. In 2004 he and friend John Castor started racing an evil-handling, 10-second big-block ’70 Chevelle. After a few times of trying to shorten Jim’s life, the Chevy was sent down the road in 2007.

Jim misses the excitement of driving the Chevelle, but his new ride is like a good marriage partner: low maintenance, no drama, easy to live with and fun to be around.

If you really want to race, but your time, financial resources and perhaps mechanical skills are a bit shy, it’s still possible to live your dream.  Just find the right car that fits your budget and hit the strip.

And one more thought:  At 73, Jim’s the oldest guy competing regularly.

So you Boomers out there, in addition to all of the above, don’t let your age stand in your way.


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