Phoenix: JJ Yeley race report

Late Race Incident Spoils Homecoming for Yeley Interstate Batteries Team Finishes 21st after Running 12th Late in Race Home is usually where the heart is, but on Saturday night, Phoenix native J.J. Yeley only found heartache after the Subway ...

Late Race Incident Spoils Homecoming for Yeley
Interstate Batteries Team Finishes 21st after Running 12th Late in Race

Home is usually where the heart is, but on Saturday night, Phoenix native J.J. Yeley only found heartache after the Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.

Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing, ran in the 12th position with under 30 laps remaining, but suffered damage trying to avoid an accident just ahead of him on lap 284. While the team made timely repairs, Yeley had to resign himself to a 21st-place finish.

As the car of Dave Blaney headed for pit road ahead of Yeley, Carl Edwards didn't see him moving off the banking. Contact was made, and Blaney was sent spinning into Kenny Wallace. Yeley checked up behind Blaney in an effort to avoid the accident, but ended up spinning himself and making contact with Blaney's car, damaging the right side of the Interstate Batteries car.

"The spotter for the 22 (Blaney) stood up and waved to say that he was pitting," said Yeley. "My spotter told me he was coming in when we were going down the back straightaway, and as we were coming into turns three and four you could see him drop two tires on the apron like he was getting ready to go. A lot of guys use the apron to turn the race cars and the 99 (Edwards) looked like he ran him over from behind. I had no place to go because the 22 spun back up the race track and I hit him on the right side and heavily damaged the right side of the car."

Yeley started the race in the 22nd position and quickly moved up through the field. He was in 16th when those on the lead lap headed to pit road on Lap 100. The Interstate Batteries crew got Yeley out in the same position, but Yeley had to make a return trip the very next lap for missing lugnuts, which caused him to restart in 30th. Nonetheless, Yeley methodically worked his way through the field to 17th by the second to last caution on Lap 211.

When the green flag waved on Lap 218, Yeley again began picking off positions and moved into the top-15. He was in 12th when the late-race accident happened ahead of him.

"We had a really good car at that point and I think we finally got the chassis where we needed to," said Yeley. "If we had a horrible race car and we were running 30th, then that would be one thing, but we had a top-10 race car and this was going to be a race that was going to get us headed back in the right direction after last week in Texas. I guess it could have been worse, but 21st after we had a top-10 car is definitely disappointing."

Even though the finish could have been worse, it might have been a little bit tougher to take in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm going to say it stings a little bit more," said Yeley of his homecoming. "I was a little giddy when they announced my name across the pre-race stage because the crowd went nuts. You have someone like me in my second year and you don't get the superstar cheers like a Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon or Dale Jr. I just wanted to do well for everyone here in Phoenix."

Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished second and third, respectively. Hamlin continues to be the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his third-place finish helped him stay fifth in the standings. Stewart and Yeley occupy the seventh and 22nd positions, respectively. Stewart gained two spots while Yeley maintained his position.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the April 29 Aaron's 499 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kenny Wallace , J.J. Yeley , Denny Hamlin , Dave Blaney
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing