Darlington: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY A New Dress for the Lady in Black CORNELIUS, N.C. (May 5, 2008) -- The Lady in Black got a new dress. Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the 1.366-mile, high-banked, egg-shaped oval that has been on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule...

J.J. YELEY
A New Dress for the Lady in Black

CORNELIUS, N.C. (May 5, 2008) -- The Lady in Black got a new dress.

Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the 1.366-mile, high-banked, egg-shaped oval that has been on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule since 1950, was repaved in the off-season.

What does that mean for J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry for Hall of Fame Racing, and his fellow competitors in Saturday night's Dodge Challenger 500?

A smoother track surface and higher speeds, for starters. And, unlike in the past when the surface was rough and coarse, the new pavement will allow tires to retain their grip for longer periods. In recent years, after just a few circuits, drivers would see their lap times slow down by more than a second as Darlington's pavement would grind away at their tires.

All those factors mean that Yeley and the other drivers and teams might not know what to expect for Saturday night's 367-lap event at Darlington.

The old girl is still the same and as tough as ever. She just looks a little different.

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

What are your overall thoughts heading into Darlington?

"To me, Darlington is one of the coolest tracks we get to go race. It will be interesting to see how different it is now that they repaved it. It used to have bumps, but a lot of that's gone now. The race track is really smooth. It will have a ton of grip. It's going to make for some sort of crazy racing because I'm not sure anyone really has any idea of what's really going to happen. At the old Darlington, you put tires on and five laps later the tires fell off by one second. I've heard that now it takes five or six laps for the tires to come in and they don't fall off until you come in off the race track again. It's probably going to be one of the most physically demanding races we run all year long."

What's the toughest part about Darlington?

"It used to be the banking because at most race tracks we go to, the bottom groove is the groove you run. Darlington is one of the wider race tracks we go to, but the groove is only two-car-lengths wide. Qualifying will be very important because all the cars are going to be going so fast that passing will be at a premium."

You have to qualify for the race on time. Is there a tougher place to qualify than Darlington?

"Probably not. Because the race track is going to have a lot of grip, it's going to be so fast. It's either going to be a situation that some drivers are uncomfortable with and it's going to be easy to qualify for, or it's going to be so close that it's going to come down to having the optimum set-up and the most horsepower, and it's going to come down to thousandths-of-a-second between those who get in and those who go home."

Is it tough to go to a track that is completely changed without having a test before the race weekend?

"They probably should have had a test down there, seeing as how there is new pavement and after seeing the speeds were much faster after the Goodyear test. But they opted to add a Charlotte test, which will help to some extent, but it's still not the same. That said, we've got two hours of practice on Thursday and then another two-and-a-half hours on Friday before qualifying. At least they've added a lot of practice so that will give the teams a chance to see what's going on with the race track. Kudos to NASCAR for doing that."

-credit: hofr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers J.J. Yeley
Teams Hall of Fame Racing