Martinsville: JJ Yeley race report

Three "Lucky Dogs" Not a Charm for Yeley Interstate Batteries Team Settles for 23rd-Place Finish After Late-Race Spin Martinsville Speedway might be best known for its famous hot dogs. J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries ...

Three "Lucky Dogs" Not a Charm for Yeley
Interstate Batteries Team Settles for 23rd-Place Finish After Late-Race Spin

Martinsville Speedway might be best known for its famous hot dogs.

J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing, was hoping to parlay a trio of another kind -- the "Lucky Dog" free pass back to the lead lap -- for a top-10 finish Sunday at Martinsville.

After receiving three "Lucky Dogs" over the course of today's 500-lap race, Yeley's brakes locked up with less than 30 laps to go, causing him to spin and relegating him to a 23rd-place finish.

Yeley started a season-best fifth and ran in the top-10 early in the race before NASCAR assessed the one-lap penalty for changing the right-side tires while the car sat on the pit box line. NASCAR requires each team to have all four tires inside the pit box when changing tires. If the tires are changed before the car is moved back into the pit box, the team is assessed the penalty.

"It was definitely a struggle today," said Yeley. "I just missed it by and inch or two on the second pit stop and it caught us lap down. The guys worked really hard. The car was really good and we got our lap back three times. We finally got some track position late in the race but the car just didn't hang in there long enough on really long runs."

Yeley found himself in 31st place after the penalty but began to work his way through the field and received the first "Lucky Dog" of the day on Lap 100, a second free pass on Lap 157, and the third and final trip back to the lead lap on Lap 335.

After Yeley and Co. received the third free pass of the day, and with threatening skies overhead, crew chief Steve Addington made the call to pit for tires and fuel just before the race was red flagged for a shower rolling through the area.

When racing resumed after the rain delay, which lasted less than one hour, several cars ahead of Yeley pitted for fuel and tires, giving the Interstate Batteries team precious track position that helped him to restart 14th on Lap 363.

The caution flag waived again just 15 laps later. Addington again decided to stay out and gain more track position, helping Yeley to restart in fourth place on Lap 382. Yeley held his own for the next 40-lap green-flag run, and stayed ahead of teammate Tony Stewart, until the caution waved yet again on Lap 423.

Again, Addington elected not to bring Yeley back to the pits in favor or track position. Yeley restarted fifth on Lap 439.

Yeley kept his car in the top-10 until his brakes locked up on Lap 473, causing him to spin going into turn one and bringing out the last caution of the day. That episode cost him a lap, and with less than 20 laps remaining, there was no time to gain it back.

"I was falling back and racing with the 88 (Rudd) really hard and I was trying to get by a lapped car that didn't give me whole lot of room," said Yeley. "It looked like there might have been oil on the race track because after I spun, I noticed they put a bunch of speedy dry down, so that could have been the case. It's really disappointing because we could have held on for a 10th- to 12th-place finish. We gave up a lot of positions and a lot of points, so it's tough to take. This is the third time this season and we can't afford to do it anymore."

Yeley's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished third and seventh, respectively.

Hamlin is now the lead JGR driver in the championship point race. He moved up to sixth place, gaining three spots by virtue of his third-place finish, 190 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon. Stewart and Yeley occupy the eighth and 18th positions, respectively. Stewart gained four spots, while Yeley fell three positions. Stewart is 240 points arrears Gordon and Yeley is 350 points back.

Jimmie Johnson held off his teammate Jeff Gordon to win the Goody's Cool Orange 500 to score his 26th career Nextel Cup victory and his third at Martinsville. Gordon finished second, followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Burton, Stewart, Scott Riggs, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top 10.

The Nextel Cup Series takes a weekend off in observance of Easter before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the April 15 Samsung 500.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , J.J. Yeley , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing