What Might Have Been Yeley Finishes 13th at Bristol J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished 13th in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor...
What Might Have Been
Yeley Finishes 13th at Bristol
J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), finished 13th in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. It was a great night for Yeley and the entire team, as they overcome a bad starting spot to notch their seventh top-15 finish of the season.
Yeley started the 500-lap race in 40th, but quickly began to climb his way into the top-25. The Interstate Batteries machine was running well and Yeley's only complaint was that his car was snug in the center of the track's newly resurfaced, 34-degree concrete banking. On each pit stop, the crew changed tires, added fuel and made air pressure adjustments to free the car up.
As the laps clicked by, Yeley continued his push toward the front. All was quiet on the team's radio and it was evident that the No. 18 Chevrolet was running well. Yeley's lap times were better than the leader and on multiple occasions, he recorded the fastest lap on the track.
By the halfway point of the race, the Interstate Batteries team had made it all the way into the top-10. Crew chief Steve Addington played cheerleader throughout the race, encouraging his driver by rattling off Yeley's fast lap times and settling him into a rhythm.
After a caution on lap 397, Addington brought the No. 18 machine in for the last pit stop of the night. Four fresh Goodyears, fuel and a track bar adjustment were ordered to free the car up for the end of the race. On the restart on lap 402, Yeley was in 15th but mired in traffic.
As the race wore on, Yeley, with old tires, battled lapped cars on new tires but still managed to pick off two more spots before the checkered flag waved. Yeley crossed the finish line in 13th at Bristol -- one of the toughest tracks on the Nextel Cup circuit. The Interstate Batteries team was thrilled with the end result, but left the track wondering what might've been if they'd had a better starting spot to begin the race.
"I wish we hadn't gotten caught behind in qualifying so bad," said Yeley after the race. "Obviously, we had a bad set of tires and we just gave up so much in qualifying. Once we started the race, the car was really good. It was really good on long runs. We had real good forward bite and that was important. We fought being a little bit tight in the center (of the corner) that caught me just a little bit. Lapped cars were just a bear. We were working hard to pass those cars without wearing out our tires.
"Bristol's never been good to me, but tonight, everything went pretty smoothly. We dodged a couple of big (wrecks) and we got beat up just a little bit. But to come out of here 13th after starting 40th, I'd say is an awesome day."