Mechanical Issues Relegate Yeley to 36th at Bristol Interstate Batteries Team Still Top-15 in Points Despite Tough Day J.J Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be quick to admit that ...
Mechanical Issues Relegate Yeley to 36th at Bristol
Interstate Batteries Team Still Top-15 in Points Despite Tough Day
J.J Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be quick to admit that Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway isn't his favorite race track on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule. But crew chief Steve Addington and the rest of the Interstate Batteries team were hoping to change that in Sunday's Food City 500 by putting a strong race car under their second year Nextel Cup driver.
But after looking strong early in the 504-lap race and leading nine laps, Yeley was forced to make a prolonged, green flag stay behind pit wall on Lap 120 to replace the engine header pipe. He returned to the track on Lap 150, but the time it took to make the repairs cost him 29 laps, relegating Yeley a 36th place finish.
"We had a top-five race car. It's that simple," said Yeley. "It was definitely a disappointing day because the Interstate Batteries Impala SS was very good, but we never got to show it. We got through the pack there at the beginning and moved up to about 25th easily. We stayed out on the second caution and got some track position and led some laps, fell off on old tires, and then had a header come apart while we were leading and NASCAR made us come in and fix it and we lost a bunch of time."
Even prior to the race's start, it proved eventful for the No. 18 team. On the second pace lap before the race began, several cars slowed ahead of Yeley. Yeley slowed and just nudged the No. 38 car of David Gilliland, but in a precursor to the kind of accidents that typify Bristol, Reed Sorenson in the No. 41 car ran hard into the back of Yeley's Interstate Batteries machine. The low speed chain reaction crash pushed in Yeley's bumper and lower left quarterpanel.
While the damage was noticeable, it didn't necessitate a pit stop, nor did Yeley feel like the hit caused the header pipe to jar loose some 120 laps later.
"I was just trying to stay tight in line to get the pit road speed," said Yeley. "The car in front of me (Gilliland) slowed down and I actually bumped him, but the 41 hit me a little harder than I hit the 38. It had nothing to do with the trip behind the wall, but I haven't heard exactly what caused the header issue. Sometimes stuff like that shakes loose because you have a lot of vibrations at Bristol, so it's really hard to say. The header problem obviously hurt us a lot more than the left rear damage."
While Yeley moved up through the field at the beginning, what started off looking like a stellar day for the Interstate Batteries team ended in frustration.
"We need to make sure we don't make these little mistakes," said Yeley of his day. "When you have a car this good and you end up 36th, it's definitely hard to take."
Yeley's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished 14th and 35th, respectively. Both drivers experienced misfortune, with Stewart leading a race-high 257 laps before a problem with his fuel pump put him 25 laps down. Hamlin led the second most laps -- 177 -- but experienced problems similar to Stewart that caused him to relinquish the lead with only 20 laps remaining.
Hamlin is now the lead JGR driver in the championship point race. His 14th-place finish dropped him one spot to ninth in the standings, 185 points behind new series leader Jeff Gordon. Stewart and Yeley occupy the 12th and 15th positions, respectively. Stewart dropped six spots, while Yeley fell three positions. Stewart is 216 points arrears Gordon and Yeley is 269 points back.
Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 to score his fourth career Nextel Cup victory and his first at Bristol. The win also earned Chevrolet its 600th all-time NASCAR victory and the first for the Impala brand since Wendell Scott won in an Impala on Dec. 1, 1963 at Jacksonville (Fla.) Speedway.
Jeff Burton finished second to Busch, while Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Jeff Green, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears comprised the remainder of the top-10.