Championship Close-Up: Rocky Yates – JW Martin
Close only counts in horseshoes and… the New River Nissan MOD-4 division.
This season, the checkered flag was never too far out of reach for Rocky Yates. The Abingdon, Va., native visited victory lane twice at Motor Mile Speedway in 2012. Even more impressive is where Yates finished the remainder of his races.
On the track, consistency became habitual. Statistically, it was historical.
Yates achieved an unprecedented feat in 2012, becoming the first driver in the MOD-4 division to finish every race in the top three. Spanning all divisions at Motor Mile Speedway, Yates is just the third driver to attain podium perfection since the ownership change in 2004, joining an elite shortlist that includes Matt Taylor (2006/LS) and Philip Morris (2008/LMSC).
“I was just very patient in trying to achieve the championship,” says Yates. “That was my goal, and I got it.”
The MOD-4 division featured four different winners throughout the ten-race schedule. But no one could compete with Yates’ consistency. Coupled with his pair of victories, Yates placed second a staggering five times. In the three remaining events, Yates posted three third place finishes.
The extraordinary resume equated to a 36-point advantage in the track standings at season’s end. The outcome capped a career year for Yates, a competitor at the New River Valley short track since 2006. His best previous effort in the standings came in 2007, tallying a third place finish in the points race behind eventual champion Dennis Holdren. That Yates forwent the entire 2011 season to race at Lonesome Pine Raceway adds to the allure of his 2012 championship campaign.
A seven-year veteran of MOD-4 racing, Yates didn’t hesitate when asked to sum up his accomplishment following the season finale on September 15.
“I’ve come a long way,” Yates explained. “I’m racing against the best in the world, as far as I’m concerned. This is the cream of the crop, and I’m glad to be on top.”
The Trackside Transcript: Rocky Yates
First, how long have you been racing, and why did you get into it?
I started MOD-4 racing in 2005. But I’ve always raced something –go-karts, dirt bikes – since I was a teenager. I’ve always enjoyed Winston Cup racing…it’s always been a thing of mine. So when I was finally able to afford to race, MOD-4 racing was what I decided to do.
Having missed the entire 2011 season at Motor Mile Speedway, what were your expectations entering this year; did you expect to contend for the track title?
Yes I did. It’s not feasible for me to come up there and race for $300.00. It pretty much costs me $300.00 a week to race. So if I win, I break even. It’s not feasible for me to come up there and race for any other reason.
You came out of nowhere to win the title against, as you’ve said, some stiff competition. What does it mean to win a track championship at Motor Mile Speedway?
Yeah, I could’ve raced at Coeburn [Lonesome Pine Raceway] the last three seasons and won the championship, but I wouldn’t be racing against anybody. I don’t want to go over there and win every week and race against nobody when I could come up here and race against somebody.
How did you win the track title?
Just being consistent and taking care of my equipment. I had a good car, and I didn’t get in any heated battles.
You’ve said on many occasions this year that you just wanted more wins. Would you trade the track championship for the majority of the wins this season?
No, I wouldn’t. It’s all about the trophy at the end of the year. I’m going for wins next year, though. I’m not concerned about the championship—all that matters next year are the wins. I let everybody beat me to death this year because I wanted to win the title, and hadn’t ever won it.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome this year?
Trying to stay consistent; I was a little off from the start. As we got into the summer months, the track slickened up and played more into my style of driving, I guess. Other than that, just maintaining my equipment and keeping everything up.
How special is this title to you, personally?
Well, it’s a class-act track. And the class is full of good cars. You’re running against the best equipment out there. I was just very patient in trying to achieve the championship. That was my goal, and I got it.
Season in a Snap-Shot