Daytona II: JJ Yeley race report

Yeley's Potential Top-Five Finish Fades with Late Cautions Interstate Batteries Team Contends All Night, but Has to Settle for 20th There may be nothing more discouraging to J.J. Yeley than having a really good race car and not being able to...

Yeley's Potential Top-Five Finish Fades with Late Cautions
Interstate Batteries Team Contends All Night, but Has to Settle for 20th

There may be nothing more discouraging to J.J. Yeley than having a really good race car and not being able to post a finish equal to its potential.

Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), had a strong car for Saturday night's Pepsi 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, but ended up having to settle for a 20th-place finish.

Despite running in the top-five for a large portion of the 160-lap race, Yeley was hampered by four cautions in the last 45 laps that slowed the field and slowed his progress to the front.

"I can't remember how long it's been since I've been this disappointed," said Yeley. "The car just never fell off on a long run. At the start of a run it was a bit snug to where I couldn't move up off the bottom. I couldn't get up top because every time I did the car was just really unstable and would get loose. On the long run we probably had one of the strongest cars out there. It was just so disappointing because I know we had a top-five car, and no worse than a top-10."

The long run that Yeley was referring to was a 55-lap span from Lap 61 until the caution waved on Lap 116. During that run, Yeley worked his way from the 15th position to fifth, and into a lead pack that had broken off from most of the field.

While Yeley looked like he might be a contender for the win, his chances faded as the cautions waved, for it took him several laps to gain the necessary momentum and find the proper drafting partners to move back up through the field.

When Yeley finally did get a little bit of drafting help on the last restart with just seven laps remaining, he thought he might have a shot of moving back to the front. But on the last lap while drafting behind the No. 25 Chevrolet of Casey Mears, the No. 25 car slowed Yeley's momentum and pushed him back to 20th, despite having been 14th when he took the white flag.

"We got rolling there at the end on the bottom and picked up some spots and the 25 car got really tight coming off of Turn 4 on the white flag lap and all I could do is run in back of him," said Yeley. "It slowed my forward momentum down and I lost another four or five spots before we got back to the checkered. It's just not fair to these guys who have worked so hard. We had such a great car and ended up 20th. You just hate to have such a great car and not be able to get a great finish to go along with it."

Yeley's JGR teammates -- Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin -- finished 38th and 43rd, respectively after both drivers were involved in a Lap 14 accident.

Hamlin continues to be the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as he maintained his second-place standing despite his last-place finish at Daytona. However, Hamlin did lose ground to series leader Jeff Gordon, as he now trails the four-time Nextel Cup champion by 277 points. Stewart and Yeley occupy the eighth and 17th positions, respectively. Stewart and Yeley both dropped one spot in the standings.

There were eight caution periods for 30 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 400-mile race.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the July 15 USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The race starts at 4 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , J.J. Yeley , Denny Hamlin