J.J. YELEY Bouncing Back HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 31, 2007) -- Throughout his racing career, J.J. Yeley has become accustomed to bouncing back. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), cut...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 31, 2007) -- Throughout his racing career, J.J. Yeley has become accustomed to bouncing back.
Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), cut his teeth on the short tracks of the West and Midwest, competing in United States Auto Club (USAC) events.
The marathon-like USAC season does not offer drivers much of an opportunity to reflect on past races. If Yeley experienced a rough outing at a race one night, there was no time to sulk. More often than not, he was back at it the very next night, racing at another track on the USAC circuit.
There's no question Yeley had a tough go of it in Indianapolis last weekend. A slippery race track and slick tires resulted in a spin during practice on Saturday. Yeley made contact with the wall and was forced to use his back-up car for the remainder of the weekend.
On Sunday, Yeley was involved in an accident that ruined his second run in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
In spite of it all, Yeley is hoping to bounce back at this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Yeley has some unfinished business at Pocono. In the June race at the 2.5-mile triangular layout, Yeley qualified 10th and ran conservatively in the top-15, hoping to save his car for the end of day. Unfortunately, he never got the opportunity to show how strong his Interstate Batteries car actually was. The race was called due to rain after just 106 of the scheduled 200 laps were run. As a result, Yeley was credited with a 17th-place finish.
For this self-described Saturday-night racer who was fortunate enough to hit the big time, Yeley is hoping his bounce back this weekend at Pocono allows him to finish what he started in June.
Why not? He's done it his entire career.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
In USAC, you went from one race to the next, week after week. Good or bad, you had to quickly put the last race behind you simply because you were racing the very next day. After going through a rough weekend at Indianapolis, does your USAC racing background help you put that difficult run behind you? Are you able to focus on the next week a little bit more quickly?
"I guess it does. Just being a veteran of racing, you learn how to put a bad weekend behind you. Obviously you can't change any of it. You just have to focus on the next race and work harder to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Sometimes you learn from your mistakes. Not that all our mistakes at Indianapolis were our own fault. When you get run over from behind, there's not much you can do. We just have to make sure we go out there and execute."
When you have a rough weekend like you had at Indianapolis, is how you rebound from that a true test of what you and your team are made of?
"Absolutely. It does make you want to go out there and run better for those guys. It was definitely a tough weekend and the Interstate Batteries guys worked really hard. When you go to Indy, it's always hot and muggy. And last weekend wasn't much different. We had some rain and there was a lot of down time. The guys definitely had to work harder last weekend than normal, getting the cars fixed. Hopefully, everything goes really smoothly at Pocono and we can go out there and qualify well and try to make an easy day of it. It would be great to get a top-five. If I could get that or a win for these guys, it would instantly turn the morale around and get everything pumped back up."
Pocono is a flat, 2.5-mile oval much like Indianapolis. How hard is it when you don't have the choice of cars that you might have had before the team's problems at Indy?
"Going to Pocono is now going to be a little bit harder because both the cars that we would have liked to have taken are now wrecked. Since we're running the COT (Car of Tomorrow) full-time next year, we don't have as many cars in our arsenal in the shop that we would have had if we were still running the conventional cars next year. But we are still bringing a new car and I'm sure it will still be competitive since all our cars at Joe Gibbs Racing are good. We ran decent there in the spring race. We were good. I was just taking my time and making sure I was taking care of my equipment before the rain hit and shortened the race and kind of cost us a bit. Now we'll go out and attack and see if we can gain back some of the points we lost over the last two weeks."
What did you learn from the first Pocono race? You qualified and were running well, but rain cut the race short. Do you feel like you have some unfinished business to take care of at Pocono?
"We had some different brakes and things in the car that we didn't have last year. The year before, I had some concerns about running out of brake pad. With some of the newer equipment we had on the car for this year, I was really trying to take it easy and conserve my brakes. I had a bit of a vibration towards the end of the race that I didn't have at the start. I was really trying to take care of the car and the guys might have thought I was running at 100 percent. To run 15th to 17th most of the day at 80 percent was good sign. I just wish we could have gotten the rest of the race in so we could have tried to race to the front."
Pocono is one of the most unique tracks the NEXTEL Cup Series visits. As a driver, what's the most difficult part of the track to figure out? What does it take to run well there?
"You have three distinct corners. That race track was based off of three different tracks when they built it years ago. My problem there in the past was overdriving the entry to the corner since the straightaways are so long. I tried to carry too much speed into the corners. Getting to the throttle early is going to be important to getting through the corners well because the corners are just not that long. It's easier to say than to do, sometimes, but I've really worked hard this season on not overdriving entry because that's always been my biggest problem."
The track is so big and so flat. How difficult and long is a race at Pocono for a driver?
"To me, the races at Pocono are the longest races of the year. It feels longer than the Coca-Cola 600. I wish they would shorten the race by about 200 miles. It's a race track that has a lot of history. It's a fun track and has a lot of character to it. It would be interesting to see how the race track would be if it was repaved and it had a little more grip. I think that would make the racing a little more exciting and you could race more side-by-side instead of the follow-the-leader you sometimes see there."