Yeley Notches Hard-Earned Top-15 Finish at Richmond Interstate Batteries Team Nets Best Result Since California in February While it wasn't fancy or dramatic, J.J. Yeley's 14th-place finish in Sunday's rain-delayed Jim Stewart 400 at Richmond ...
Yeley Notches Hard-Earned Top-15 Finish at Richmond
Interstate Batteries Team Nets Best Result Since California in February
While it wasn't fancy or dramatic, J.J. Yeley's 14th-place finish in Sunday's rain-delayed Jim Stewart 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway might have been the grittiest performance of the year for him and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries team.
"It was definitely one of the most hard-fought races that I've had in a very long time," said Yeley. "We had a car that was capable of running in the top-10 easily, but we just couldn't ever get track position. It seemed like when something good would happen that something bad would follow it.
"I'm really proud of the team. They dug really hard. We kept getting blocked in the pit stall by the 38 (David Gilliland) and the 7 (Robby Gordon), and finally he went out of the race and we got an opening where we could get through. The guys had some good pit stops and we were able to keep our track position."
Yeley started the 400-lap contest from 23rd in the 43-car field, but patiently worked his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS up to 17th-place by lap 124.
After a long green flag run that lasted over 100 laps, the Interstate Batteries team found themselves fighting to stay on the lead lap after a round of green flag pit stops. When leader Kevin Harvick got by Yeley on Lap 250, the No. 18 machine became the first car a lap down. But that position made the team eligible to earn the "Lucky Dog" -- the free pass NASCAR gives to put the first car one lap down back onto the lead lap.
Just a few laps later, Yeley got slightly loose in turn two and moved up the race track without touching anything, yet the caution flag waved anyway. While the team thought they had received the lucky dog, NASCAR thought differently. Because it was determined that the caution came out due to Yeley's errant move up the race track, the lucky dog couldn't be awarded to the team that caused the caution. Despite disagreeing with the call, Yeley was forced to restart a lap down. But when the No. 66 car of Jeff Green collided with the No. 8 of Dale Earnhardt Jr., on Lap 285, Yeley finally earned his lap back.
From that point forward, crew chief Steve Addington used smart pit strategy by staying out when others pitted, allowing the team to move up to eighth on Lap 341. But when the caution flag waved again just 10 laps later, Yeley complained of the car being too loose, so much so that he thought he might have a tire going down.
Addington decided not to take any chances and brought Yeley back down pit road for four tires and fuel, which put Yeley in 17th when the race restarted on Lap 355.
"We stayed out on a pit stop and were about seventh and eighth on the race track," said Yeley. "We had the same wear on our tires as the leaders did, and for whatever reason the car got really free on entry and we lost three spots. I was worried we might have had a tire going down, and with about 70 laps to go, it just wasn't worth the chance, so we came in for fresh tires."
Yeley fought with the likes of Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr., for the remainder of the race before finishing 14th, netting the Interstate Batteries team their best result of 2007 since their 12th-place finish at California Speedway in February.
Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished third and eighth, respectively. Hamlin remains the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his third-place finish moved him up one spot to fourth in the standings. Stewart and Yeley occupy the seventh and 22nd positions, respectively. The two drivers both lost one position in the overall standings.