Atlanta: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Random Thoughts and Observations Heading Into Week Four CORNELIUS, N.C. (March 6, 2008) -- Three races down, 33 to go. So, here's a scary thought: Major League Baseball Spring Training is in full swing in Florida and Arizona (FYI...

Random Thoughts and Observations Heading Into Week Four

CORNELIUS, N.C. (March 6, 2008) -- Three races down, 33 to go. So, here's a scary thought:

Major League Baseball Spring Training is in full swing in Florida and Arizona (FYI -- Tucson, Ariz., is the spring home of the 2007 National League West Division Champion Arizona Diamondbacks -- in case you were wondering). Also, March Madness is gearing up as the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament gets underway in a couple of weeks.

Why is this important?

Because by the time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets to the 36th and final race in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a new World Series champion will have been crowned a month earlier and Division I Men's Basketball programs will already have one month of practice under their belts in preparation for the 2008-2009 season.

Bottom line? There's a heck of a long way to go.

So while J.J. Yeley and the DLP HDTV/Hall of Fame Racing team aren't exactly thrilled with their first three races at Daytona (25th), California (29th) and Las Vegas (27th), nor with their standing in points (32nd), they realize there is still a long, long way to go and plenty of time to right the ship.

This weekend, Yeley will drive the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry in the Kobalt Tools 500 at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. Yeley has always enjoyed racing at the 1.5-mile tracks, so perhaps a 500-mile Sunday-afternoon drive in rural Georgia will produce a good finish -- and much-needed momentum -- for the DLP team.

J.J. YELEY, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry:

Your thoughts on Las Vegas, how it went for you and how difficult it was for you and the DLP HDTV team to be in Phoenix testing less than 24 hours after Sunday's race:

"For us, Vegas didn't exactly go great. We struggled, trying to get the car comfortable all day long. It seemed like once we got the car where it was fast enough to run in the top-15, we were already a lap down and just couldn't get the track position we really needed. We were a tremendous amount better than when we tested there. We had a test that wasn't good at Vegas or at California. So, you know, to really be able to evaluate how the team has been doing has been tough. For me, after Vegas, I was really looking forward to getting to Phoenix. We ran well there last year. The Hall of Fame team ran well there last year right out of the box. The car was very fast, very comfortable. We have a way to go, still. You know, it's a new team. We're just trying to develop the relationship between myself and Brandon Thomas, the crew chief, and all of the guys. You know, there are a lot of different packages you can run with these CoT (Car of Tomorrow) cars. It's just a matter of trying to find the fastest one that's going to be the most comfortable for me. Like I said, when we tested at the other mile-and-a-half race tracks, we were off and we couldn't find what we really needed. We have a better understanding of the car now, and we're looking forward to the future."

Talk about the surface at Atlanta. It seems as though you can use several different racing lines throughout the race. Is Atlanta a place you enjoy?

"It is. I hate race tracks that you just have to run the bottom and there is nowhere else to go. At Atlanta, at the beginning of a run you'll see guys hugging the bottom, and then later in the run they'll be running by the fence. I just really enjoy Atlanta. It's a fun place to run. It's one of the fastest race tracks we go to. Qualifying is always a white-knuckle experience. That said, qualifying doesn't mean the world at Atlanta, which is a benefit. If you've got a good-handling car, especially on good, long runs, that seems to be the key to running well there. Obviously, it will be interesting to see how the current car handles at Atlanta compared to the old car."

Jeff Gordon hit the wall pretty hard at Las Vegas. What are your thoughts on putting SAFER barriers on all the walls -- inside and outside?

"There's actually been some discussion about that. I know we've had some accidents in the Nationwide Series, previously the Busch Series, that were very similar in that the walls don't overlap quite enough. It's almost a head-on blow. I know, at Nashville and some of the other race tracks, those problems have been addressed. I think it's something that NASCAR really is going to have to look at all the tracks we go to, because after watching that wreck on TV, if he (Gordon) could have hit a little bit earlier or later, I think that wreck would have meant a lot less of an impact for him. But it was definitely a tough lick to take."

Jim Aust, who has been responsible for Toyota's motorsports activities in the United States for the past 10 years, has announced his retirement. Aust will step down as vice president, motorsports, for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., and president and chief executive officer of TRD (Toyota Racing Development), U.S.A., on June 31. Can you talk about Jim?

"Jim and the entire Toyota group have been fantastic to deal with, just in the few short months we've been partners with them. It's tough to see him leave the program, but I think he's earned a great retirement. Jim's contributed a lot, not just to Toyota, but to auto racing as a whole. I'm going to miss working with him, and I know (owners) Jeff (Moorad) and Tom (Garfinkel) are, as well as everyone at Hall of Fame Racing."

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , J.J. Yeley
Teams Hall of Fame Racing , Toyota Racing