Bittersweet Weekend for Yeley
Interstate Batteries Team Finishes 28th after Starting on the Pole

J.J. Yeley just didn't know what to think after finishing 28th in Sunday's Citizens Bank 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) went into the day with an optimistic outlook by virtue of his first career Nextel pole. But the chassis setup that set fast time on Friday didn't work for the race on Sunday, as Yeley and the No. 18 team struggled to get a handle on their race car.

"It's really hard to say. I'm completely clueless," said Yeley after the race. "The car was just really tight to begin with and we made some adjustments and suddenly it was wrecking loose. We got it back on some adjustments and it helped some, but it still wasn't enough. To start from the pole and have such a great outlook for the day and end up 28th, it's very disappointing. We have to keep our heads up and keep working hard because this team has showed the last several weeks that we're capable of running up front."

The tight handling condition caused Yeley to drop from the pole to 20th just 20 laps into the 200-lap race. After the first two pits stops, crew chief Steve Addington made some drastic changes in hopes of making the car better. Addington also elected to take just two right side tires on the lap-69 pit stop, which helped Yeley gain back his track position and restart in fourth-place on lap 75.

But those changes didn't seem to work, as Yeley's car became extremely loose and dropped him back down the running order. Adding to the problem was a caution flag that flew on lap 116 for a Tony Raines spin shortly after Yeley pitted, catching him and several others a lap down.

The Interstate Batteries team didn't have much opportunity to work on their car for the rest of the race. The last 80 laps went caution-free, and compounding the frustrating day was the loss of power steering shortly after the team's final pit stop on lap 159.

"The very last run with about 45 laps to go, I left pit road and lost power steering," said Yeley. "The car felt like it was actually going to drive decent, but I hate to hustle the car and get really out of shape and get way behind the steering and wreck and take out myself and someone else. I drove around the last 45 laps, and I think it was the most miserable thing I've ever had to do."

-credit: jgr