HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (Nov. 20, 2003) - Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), winner of two NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships and 40 Winston Cup victories since its inception in 1992, solidified its future by signing United States Auto Club (USAC) standout J.J Yeley to a multi-year contract.
Beginning with the 2004 racing season, Yeley will run an A-B-C schedule, consisting of seven to eight ARCA races, 10-12 NASCAR Busch Series races and two to three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races. MBNA, the world's largest independent credit card issuer and longtime JGR supporter, will back Yeley's effort as an associate sponsor. A primary sponsor has yet to be secured.
"J.J. Yeley is a very talented racer who everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing is excited to have," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "He has accomplished a lot in a very short period of time in many different racing disciplines. His track record in USAC mirrors Tony Stewart's before he came to NASCAR, and Tony's time spent driving stock cars for JGR has worked out very well for him and for us. We're hoping the same is true with J.J."
A native of Phoenix, the 27-year-old Yeley comes to JGR with an impressive list of credentials that could become even more impressive in the coming days. Yeley is on track to match Stewart's record of earning USAC's Triple Crown - winning the Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown championships in a single season. Yeley has already wrapped up the Sprint and Silver Crown titles, and with only two races remaining - Nov. 22 at Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park and Nov. 27 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway - he leads the Midget standings by 121 points over nearest pursuer Tracy Hines.
"This has already been a great year for me," said Yeley, who in 2002 won the Silver Crown championship and finished second in the Sprint and Midget standings. "There's still some work for me to do in USAC, but having the opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing is something any driver would want. It's a good home, with Tony Stewart and Mike Bliss - guys who came up through the USAC ranks before me - already there. It's a great challenge and there's a lot to learn, but I'm ready for it."
"J.J. is the number one candidate from the USAC series to move up," said Stewart, winner of the Triple Crown in 1995. "What he can do on dirt tracks is awesome, and all year he's gotten better and better with what he's been able to do on pavement. It's just a matter of time before he gets the hang of stock cars. He's shown his adaptability since he came to USAC in 1997, and his versatility will be an asset in NASCAR."
Yeley has earned a total of 24 wins this year in USAC, easily surpassing the mark of 19 set by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and tied in 1988 by Sleepy Tripp and in 2000 by Jay Drake. Fourteen of Yeley's wins have come in Sprint Cars, where Stewart is the owner, while four other wins have come in the Silver Crown car, which Stewart co-owns with Bob East. En route to amassing such a large win total, Yeley became the first driver in USAC history to win on pavement and dirt in all three national series in a single season.
"There really haven't been that many drivers of J.J.'s caliber who can go out in three different divisions and have the equipment in three different divisions to reach such a milestone," said Stewart, referring to Yeley's shot at the Triple Crown. "He has three good race teams to drive for and he's got a lot of talent. You can have the three best cars in three different series but still not get the job done if you don't know what to do behind the wheel.
"J.J. knows what he's doing in USAC, and he knows what he's doing by coming here."