Darlington: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Triple the Fun at the "Track Too Tough to Tame" HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (May 8, 2007) -- J.J. Yeley seems to have a penchant for accomplishing things in threes. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala ...

J.J. YELEY
Triple the Fun at the "Track Too Tough to Tame"

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (May 8, 2007) -- J.J. Yeley seems to have a penchant for accomplishing things in threes.

Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS, accomplished his most notable trifecta the year prior to signing with the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing organization.

In 2003, Yeley set a USAC single-season record with 24 wins to break A.J. Foyt's mark of 19 wins set in 1961. That same year, Yeley handily won the USAC Triple Crown by earning titles in all three USAC divisions -- Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown. Only one other driver has accomplished that feat in a single season -- Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, who did so in 1995 before earning his ride with Gibbs.

So, perhaps a trip back to his racing roots is just what the doctor ordered.

Not only will Yeley participate in this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, he'll also compete in Thursday night's USAC Silver Crown event in the No. 14 car owned by legendary racer Foyt. Yeley is hoping that three is, once again, a charm.

Yeley also has a bit of momentum heading into Darlington after a gritty 14th-place finish at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway last weekend -- his best Nextel Cup finish since the second race of the season at California Speedway.

At the track "Too Tough to Tame," Yeley and the Interstate Batteries team hope to turn this weekend's tripleheader into their first trip to victory lane.

J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):

How did the decision come about to run the Silver Crown car for A.J. Foyt at Darlington?

"I used to drive a USAC car for George Snider, who now takes care of A.J. Foyt's new Silver Crown team. When Tracy Hines (driver of the No. 21 for Tony Stewart Racing in the USAC series) got injured last week, I called (George) just to check in to see how (Tracy) was doing. I told George we would see him at Darlington. I told him that if he hadn't found anyone to run his car there, then I would like to try one of those new Silver Crown cars since I haven't driven one yet. I think that Darlington would be an awesome race track to run. He called me back on Saturday and told me I had the ride, so we'll head up there on Thursday and have a bit of fun."

Will Darlington be the most challenging race so far for the Car of Tomorrow (COT)?

"I'm thinking it's probably going to be. I've only been to Darlington twice in a Busch car and once in a Cup car. It's just a different race track. With the line you have to use and as tricky as the race track is, the tires fall of so quickly. Not only that, but as difficult as the race track is, and as difficult the COT races have been so far with the way the cars handle, it's definitely going to be a challenging race. There's a big difference between the COT and the conventional cars. Going to Darlington, you generally fight a car that's very tight there. It's going to be interesting to see how different it is in the COT car. At the same time, it's a challenging race track and it's a lot of fun. It's a race track that I look forward to going to, so hopefully things will go well for us."

Take away the differences in how the COT handles compared to the conventional cars. What challenges will your crew face at Darlington with the Car of Tomorrow?

"I feel the biggest challenge is going to be how the cars react to brushing the wall. It's a given when you go to Darlington that at some point you're going to get a 'Darlington Stripe.' I guess it's going to be a little bit different because the fenders don't stick out as much. You might get away from bumping the wall and not see the effects of it as much as you would the conventional car. To me, it's going to be totally different than any race we've ever had there and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

They are planning on repaving Darlington after this race. How will that change the racing? Would you like to see it repaved?

"I think most guys would like to see it repaved because the tires fall off so quickly there. If that race track has a ton of grip like most others do after they are repaved, I think they are really going to make Darlington a different race track. You are really going to have a lot of grip, so you can race hard for 40 laps instead of 10 laps when your tires typically fall off. I think it's going to be a welcome change for a lot of guys once we get back to Darlington next year."

Is Darlington going to be ultimate challenge this year for the Car of Tomorrow? Or do you think Dover will take that honor?

"No, I don't think you can compare Darlington to Dover. I don't think there is going to be any doubt that Dover is going to be the biggest test for the COT car. It's the fastest race track that we will be on with the COT this year. You have a lot of grip and a lot of banking and you have a lot of transitions. I think the transition will be the toughest part with the COT cars because they don't travel as much. Going into turn one, you're going 180-plus miles per hour and the race track basically drops from underneath you. You land going into turn one and then get set going in the other direction. It's always been a challenge, but then you take away half the travel and you wonder how that is going to affect the cars going into turn one."

Several teams got an opportunity to participate in a Goodyear tire test at Darlington. Is that going to be a big advantage for those teams, especially since Darlington is so different from other tracks on the schedule?

"I think so. Compared to what we've done at other race tracks, the teams that were able to tire test are definitely going to have an advantage. There are a lot of things that Steve (Addington, crew chief) and the other crew chiefs go through when they work on how to stop the travel of the cars. Even though it's a tire test, those guys are still working on making those cars perform at their best. They are definitely going to have an advantage, but that doesn't always mean that they are going to go out there and win."

This is only your sophomore season in Nextel Cup. The series used to visit Darlington Raceway twice each season, so those drivers that have been in the sport for a long time have much more experience racing there than you do. Are you at a disadvantage because of that?

"Obviously, when they go to Darlington they know what to expect, whereas I might not. But we are all driving a new car that is going to act differently. I think that might level out the playing field slightly, simply because it's kind of a new ballgame for everyone. I guess that gives me a little more confidence. At the same time, if you can go out there and have a good-handling car, you can have a good race regardless of how many times you've been there. For a guy who's been there many times, if his car isn't running well, it's going to be tough regardless of how much experience he might have at Darlington."

What's the most difficult part about racing at Darlington?

"To me, it's passing and getting off the race track. Getting off the race track is odd there because it's such a wide race track. But you only use 15 percent of the track to actually race on. There's such a huge apron and trying to get off the race track to get onto the apron to pit road is generally very slippery. It seems to always create problems. Because the race track is shaped the way it is, it's hard to pass. You spend a lot of time racing your own race because you don't know the pit cycle that everyone else is on. If someone is on new tires, you're not going to be able to stay ahead of him. He'll be three-tenths of a second faster because he's got better tires. Chances are the more time you spend trying to stay ahead of someone on newer tires, the more trouble you are going to get yourself into."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , A.J. Foyt
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing