Atlanta II: JJ Yeley race report

Patience Yields Yeley Top-20 Finish at Atlanta No. 18 VESIcare® Chevrolet Battles Back from 30th to Finish 16th Despite brushing the wall on lap 117 of Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and ...

Patience Yields Yeley Top-20 Finish at Atlanta
No. 18 VESIcare® Chevrolet Battles Back from 30th to Finish 16th

Despite brushing the wall on lap 117 of Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and falling as far back as 34th, a resilient J.J. Yeley battled back to finish the 325-lap race in 16th.

The driver of the No. 18 VESIcare® (sumatriptan) Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing started 30th after Friday's qualifying session was rained-out and the 43-car field was set by points. And his march to the front began as soon as the green flag dropped.

When the first caution of the day waived just five laps into the race, Yeley dove onto pit road for a wedge adjustment and four fresh Goodyear tires. Crew chief Steve Addington hoped to get off sequence with the leaders with the early stop, and if subsequent cautions fell just right, rack up some serious track position.

Yeley restarted 31st, but the early pit stop didn't pay off. A long, 76-lap green flag run combined with the quick pace of the leaders put Yeley a lap down just before the second caution on lap 83. But even with being a lap down, Yeley was at least in the top-25.

After restarting 23rd, Yeley battled a car that wouldn't turn in the center of the corner. To compensate, Yeley experimented by running the outside groove in turns three and four. The experiment ended with the No. 18 car scraping the wall on lap 117.

After assessing the light damage, Addington decided to bring the car to pit road for a green flag pit stop to pull out the right front fender and put on four fresh tires.

"I tried going to the outside in (turns) three and four higher than I'd been running to try to see if it would work, and we got into the fence," said Yeley. "You hate to stay out and cut a tire because there's something wrong. Steve (Addington) made the call to come in and be safe."

After fixing the damage, Yeley returned to the track on lap 171 in the 31st position, with quite the hole to dig out of and a car not to his liking.

Addington ordered wholesale changes to the VESIcare® Chevrolet on the next pit stop, which included removing a spring rubber, along with wedge and air pressure adjustments.

The changes seemed to do the trick as Yeley gradually moved his way through the field, avoiding several accidents in the process.

With 15 laps to go, he suddenly found himself in 17th-place, battling for position with several other cars two laps down, which included Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, David Gilliland and Kyle Petty.

After doing a spectacular job of avoiding a multi-car crash on lap 311 that collected Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin and Casey Mears, Yeley appeared to be in a perfect position to snag a top-15 finish until Mears' severely damaged Dodge held up the pack Yeley was racing with on the final lap.

As a result, Gilliland snuck by him just before the start finish line, taking away the potential top-15 finish.

"The 42 (Mears) was on the apron shooting sparks and let the 21 (Ken Schrader) and the 38 (Gilliland) pass me," said Yeley. "I'm just a little disappointed in some of the guys that were more than two laps down racing hard, especially with 10 laps to go, not giving way. You hate to give up a position coming down to the checkered flag because everyone is checking-up.

"You had some cars that were wrecked still rolling around there and it cost me a position there at the line. But the thing is still in one piece and the guys in the fab shop will be happy. So we'll take it and go on to Texas."

Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate - Tony Stewart - scored his 28th career Nextel Cup victory by winning the Bass Pro Shops 500. His other JGR teammate - Denny Hamlin - finished eighth to secure his 17th top-10 this season.

Hamlin continues to lead the trio of JGR drivers in the championship point standings, as he is the lone JGR representative in the Chase for the Championship. Hamlin gained one spot to climb to third in points and is now only 65 markers behind series leader Matt Kenseth.

With his win, Stewart maintained his 11th-place point standing and holds a healthy 285-point advantage over 12th-place Carl Edwards.

Yeley gained one position to climb to 29th in points and is 200 points outside the top-25.

Finishing behind Stewart in second was Jimmie Johnson, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle secured the rest of the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Joe Nemechek and Robby Gordon (no relation) comprised the rest of the top-10.

With only three races remaining, the next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Nov. 5 Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race begins at 2:55 p.m. EST with live, high-definition coverage provided by NBC.

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , J.J. Yeley , Carl Edwards , David Gilliland , Denny Hamlin , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing