Track Position Tough to Overcome for Yeley at Infineon J.J. Yeley knew he had quite a hole to dig himself out of prior to Sunday's Toyota/SaveMart 350k at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. After struggling to find the handle on the car...
Track Position Tough to Overcome for Yeley at Infineon
J.J. Yeley knew he had quite a hole to dig himself out of prior to Sunday's Toyota/SaveMart 350k at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
After struggling to find the handle on the car during Friday qualifying and the final practice sessions on Saturday, Yeley knew he had his work cut out for him from his 33rd starting position.
While the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had a steady day behind the wheel and a car capable of a top-15 finish, track position and fuel mileage were tough to overcome.
"It wasn't too bad of a day," said Yeley. "We just didn't have track position. We had a pretty decent race car. Considering they changed a bunch of stuff on this car after the qualifying run and yesterday's happy hour, it wasn't bad since we really didn't know whether it would be better or worse. I was real happy with it. We still need to gain a little bit, but lap-time wise we were pretty good. A lot of guys were really falling off. It just came down to fuel mileage and we just weren't getting the fuel mileage that others were getting."
The race, similar to past NEXTEL Cup road course races, came down to the aforementioned track position along with fuel strategy. Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya stretched his fuel tank 42 laps on the way to victory lane.
With the caution waving for the final time on lap 68, crew chief Steve Addington elected not to bring Yeley to pit road under caution since he still had to make one more fuel stop in order to make it to the end. Just five laps later, Addington brought Yeley to pit road under green for the final time, knowing that the Interstate Batteries car could make it to the finish on fuel and with the hope that several others couldn't.
In the end, many more cars stretched their fuel tanks than anticipated.
"We just figured that a lot more guys were going to have to come for fuel and they didn't," said Yeley. "We only made it by a lap. I actually ran out before I got to the garage. We couldn't have pressed the issue any more than we did. My hats off to those guys that got great fuel mileage. Probably should have snuck away with a top-15 so it's unfortunate."
While Sunday's finish wasn't what they had hoped for, Yeley was pleased gaining even more precious seat time on a road course.
"I learned a couple things that helped me here," said Yeley. "I got better at getting through turn three and I get through the esses better in the COT car. It takes a lot of patience and I was really feeling much more comfortable towards the end of the race."
Yeley's JGR teammates -- Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin -- finished sixth and 10th, respectively. Hamlin remains the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his 10th-place finish helped him to maintain second place in the standings, 271 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon. Stewart and Yeley occupy the sixth and 18th positions, respectively. Stewart gained one spot while Yeley maintained his position.
There were seven caution periods for 14 laps, with only two drivers failing to finish the 110-lap race.
The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the July 1 Lenox Industrial Tools 400 300 at the Infineon Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT beginning at 1:00 p.m.