J.J. YELEY New Concrete, New Attitude HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 21, 2007) -- J.J. Yeley will be quick to tell you that Bristol Motor Speedway is far from his favorite stop on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule. But Yeley, driver of the No.
New Concrete, New Attitude
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 21, 2007) -- J.J. Yeley will be quick to tell you that Bristol Motor Speedway is far from his favorite stop on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule.
But Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), might have cause for optimism leading into Saturday night's second stop of the season at the "World's Fastest Half-Mile."
While Bristol will debut a new surface, Yeley will bring along a new attitude towards the track for this weekend's Sharpie 500.
His new-found excitement for Bristol stems from the track's repaving this summer that has smoothed out and widened the high-banked short track, adding some characteristics that are a little more to his liking.
Yeley is also one of a handful of Nextel Cup drivers who participated in the NASCAR Busch Series test on the resurfaced track back in July. He'll hope to use that as an advantage heading into the first race on the new concrete.
Back in March, Yeley had his strongest performance ever at Bristol, leading several laps in the debut of the Car of Tomorrow (COT) before the run was derailed by an exhaust pipe that shook loose and sent the Interstate Batteries machine behind the wall for repairs.
While Yeley hopes the new surface will elevate his fortunes to new heights, he also knows the race will most certainly feature some of the same characteristics of the "old" Bristol, which has always included plenty of action.
Yeley is hoping the new attitude, combined with the new surface, will yield another positive -- his best-ever finish at Bristol.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
Bristol has been repaved since you raced there in March. You are one of the Nextel Cup drivers who tested there recently in the Busch Series car. So how is the track different now?
"From the test I did in the Busch car, it's a totally different race track. I've never been a huge fan of Bristol, in part because I've never really been able to get good finishes there. From the guys I talked to, those who might have raced there a lot might find it much different when they race there this weekend. Obviously, the race track did an excellent job with the banking. The race track is really smooth and wide. It might produce better racing than it used to, but it's just not Bristol anymore. It's a different race track. Some of the drivers are going to love it and some are going to hate it. Regardless, we are going there twice a year for the next eternity, so we'll just have to get used to it."
Do you think you might like it a little bit more than in the past because of what they've done with the repaving?
"I don't know. It might become a race track that I might enjoy running. It's a bit wider and the straightaways are completely different than what they used to be. The bottom groove doesn't seem to have that little rail you could get hooked on to get the car turned through the corners. It's going to be interesting to see how different it's really going to be during the race. Maybe it's fitting to have a new Bristol for the new COT car."
Some of the Truck Series guys were talking during the test that they could maybe even run three-wide. Are they crazy to think that?
"I'm sure they'll go three-wide when they are avoiding a wreck. They've done the progressive banking there. In theory, you should be able to go to the outside and be just as fast. I know some of the guys during the Truck Series test tried it, and it might have been a little bit different. I think until the race track cures, there will be a lot of marbles in the second groove, which was the case during the Busch Series test. If it got to where the middle groove or the outer groove was the fast lane, I think it would make the race track a lot more fun. But I'm not going to be too optimistic on that happening just yet."
While Bristol might not be one of your favorites, you ran well there in the spring and led some laps before you had a header pipe come loose and had to go behind the wall. Are you looking forward to getting back and seeing what you can do without the issues you had in March?
"It's hard to say. It's still another race track that we have to go to twice a year. There, it sometimes comes down to luck. We got to where we led some laps and had a really good race car. The exhaust broke on the car and we lost 40 laps in the garage trying to fix it. Anything can happen. At the time, Joe Gibbs Racing had a pretty big advantage on the COT program since we were ahead of the curve a bit. A lot of the teams have definitely closed that gap, especially on the short tracks. It's going to be hard to know if we are going to have a dominant car. But everyone is going to be starting from scratch since it is a new race car. Some guys are going to hit on some stuff, and some are going to miss on some things. With all the engineers we have at Joe Gibbs Racing, hopefully we can find that little bit of an edge that helps us win races there."
With the new pavement at Bristol, what kind of race do you think we are going to see?
"I think it's going to be the same race that you see at a typical Bristol, where everyone is going to run the bottom. I know the banking is very cool. And with the transitions, they did an excellent job of redoing the race track. To me, it's not Bristol. I haven't raced there a bunch of times, but it's taken away some from the race track, in my opinion. It was a little bit slower than what it used to be, and you don't feel the banking as much on the bottom groove. The racing might turn out to be better, but it doesn't feel like the same place."