J.J. YELEY: Flat Out HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 26, 2007) -- The term "flat out" is normally associated with speaking about maximum effort and speed. For this weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, the term...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 26, 2007) -- The term "flat out" is normally associated with speaking about maximum effort and speed.
For this weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, the term might take on several different meanings when the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series visits the virtually flat but fast mile oval in Loudon, N.H.
During his relatively short, 160-race stock car career, J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has enjoyed success mostly on fast race tracks over a mile-and-a-half in length.
The one glaring exception would be New Hampshire, where Yeley has thrived in both the NASCAR Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series competition with three top-10 finishes in five races, including an eighth-place finish in last September's Nextel Cup event.
After a successful test in early June at a similarly flat mile -- The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis. -- Yeley has even more confidence heading into this weekend's first Car of Tomorrow (COT) race at New Hampshire.
So while the track has just 12 degrees of banking in the corners, its two-groove racing seems to fit Yeley's driving style.
While the Interstate Batteries team will be "flat out" all weekend in another sense, Yeley and Company will hope to take that attitude to an even flatter surface where everyone wants to end up -- victory lane.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
You ran very well last fall at New Hampshire, finishing eighth. Since it will be a Car of Tomorrow (COT) race, what will you expect there?
"New Hampshire is just a really flat. I've been there in an Indy Car prior to running the Cup and Busch races there. It's a high-speed race track. The speed that you carry down the straightaways into corners that are so flat doesn't leave you with a lot of grip, which is pretty amazing. We've had some good runs there at New Hampshire and it's a pretty fun race track for me. It will be interesting to see how the COT works there. They don't carry as much front grip as the conventional cars. Obviously, I think it's going to be a little bit slower than some of the other race tracks we've been with the COT so car. We've been really good in the majority of the short-track COT races. I'm sure that we will still have fun there and still be competitive. It's just another one of those race tracks that's different from anything that we've been on so far this year."
In what category do you put New Hampshire? Would you call it a short track?
"It's really hard to compare to anything else. Martinsville would be the closest because it's also flat and the shape of the race track, even though New Hampshire is bigger and faster. It still races the same. There are almost two different types of banking on the race track. The bottom almost seems more banked, sometimes. Last year, there were points in the race you could move to the outside and actually make it work pretty well. I just enjoy race tracks that you can race on and pass. You might not be able to have a great qualifying lap, but you can still be able to drive to the front."
You tested at Milwaukee in preparation for New Hampshire this weekend. How did the test go for you and the No. 18 team?
"We had actually planned for a two-day test there but we only ended up staying for one day. We felt like we were so happy with the car that we stopped before any of the other teams, even the other two Joe Gibbs Racing teams, which doesn't happen very often. If we can get the car driving anywhere near as well as it did at Milwaukee, we are definitely good enough for a top-10 finish. The car rotated really well and had forward bite. We hit on a few things that really seemed to make the car drive well, especially on long runs."
New Hampshire isn't the type of track where you normally are most comfortable. But with that being said, you've run well there virtually every time you've competed there in Nextel Cup and the Busch Series. Why is that?
"I guess I've always run pretty decently at New Hampshire. For being the race track that it is, a one-mile, flat race track, it's still fun and pretty racy. You are still going to have two-wide racing most of the day. I guess it's a race track that ends up fitting my style. It's hard to get forward bite there, so you have to be smooth on the throttle. It's one of those race tracks that doesn't stick out in your mind as a favorite since it's not really high-speed. But I've always had pretty decent finishes there. It's going to be a really good race track to go back to and possibly get our first win."
You had a great test at Milwaukee, but what will be the difference once you get to New Hampshire, since it's a different race track and different tire? Are a lot of the things you learn still the same, anyway?
"The race tracks are very similar. Milwaukee is about as flat as you get. New Hampshire has a little bit of banking, but you have plenty of space on the bottom two grooves. We felt like we had a really good race car at the test in Milwaukee. The tires might be a little bit different since the tires we'll race with will be fresh. Compared to some of the speeds that other cars ran on similar tires, we were really happy with the way the car drove. We weren't too bad when we unloaded, but we made some pretty big gains. It still never got to where we were fine-tuning the race car since we were trying different packages. Knowing that we ran as fast as we did, and that we didn't make the standard changes that you have in the race car, I'm pretty optimistic going to New Hampshire."
What's the difference between driving an Indy Car and a stock car at New Hampshire?
"In an Indy Car, you have so much downforce and so much grip. You can't run wide open there, but they are still probably four or five seconds faster than a stock car is there. You still get some good racing in the stock car where there are at least two grooves. The bottom is generally pretty good, and you can go out there and do some passing. It's still fun to go there because you can still race and pass there."
What is it going to take to run consistently in the top-10 each week?
"It takes breaks here and there, but I don't want to rely on that. We need to go out there and create our own opportunities. To look through the season right now, qualifying has probably hurt us the most up until recently. At any one of the races we've run so far, we are capable of running top-10 or top-five speeds. But we are 15th or 18th on the race track and it's just really difficult to make it up. We had to qualifying better and we have. If you start up front, it's easier to stay up there. If we have a really good race car, it's difficult to come from 20th or 25th on a race track where track position is critical and make up that time."
After a rough year last year for many rookies, why do you think that the rest of the rookie class from last year has improved as a group this season?
"There is definitely a lot of luck in the sport and if you don't have it, then it doesn't matter how good you are or how good of a race car you have. If you have bad circumstances, it still costs you a good finish. Sometimes you get good chemistry right from the get-go, and sometimes it grows with the same people and sometimes you have to make changes to find it. We've made changes on our team and I think that because of those changes we are better this year than we were last year. Several of the other rookies last year have also found the right combination and are proving that they are capable of running well this year."