Fontana II: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Back on Track HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 28, 2007) -- Racing is all about momentum, and J.J. Yeley feels like he has plenty of it going into this weekend's 500-mile race at California Speedway in Fontana. Yeley, driver of the No....

J.J. YELEY
Back on Track

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 28, 2007) -- Racing is all about momentum, and J.J. Yeley feels like he has plenty of it going into this weekend's 500-mile race at California Speedway in Fontana.

Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is coming off a 13th-place finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, his first top-15 finish since a second-place run at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May.

Even more good news awaits Yeley as he makes the cross-country trip to California on Labor Day weekend.

Back in February at California, Yeley ran in the top-10 all day long and ended up with a strong 13th-place finish.

The September race at California takes on a different flavor than the February edition because the race track has been baking in the summer California sun for several months. Add the fact that the race starts during the day and ends at night, which favors teams that are able to make the right adjustments to their race cars as the 500-mile event unfolds. Those are the teams that will be rewarded with a top tier finish.

Last September at California, Yeley ran in the top-15 for the majority of the race thanks to crew chief Steve Addington and the No. 18 team's ability to make the right calls on adjustments. In the end, though, the Interstate Batteries machine was a few laps short on gas. Thus, instead of vying for the win, it had to settle for a top-20 finish.

Yeley hopes that last weekend's run at Bristol, and the confidence of having had strong runs at California Speedway in the past, that the team is back on track with the momentum it needs to finish the final 12 races of the season with a flourish, and possibly notch Yeley his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win along the way.

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

It's been a bit of a frustrating stretch for you this summer as far as finishes go. Does getting a top-15 at Bristol help you and the team's confidence heading to California?

"It definitely helps. The main goal right now is focusing on the rest of 2007. We have 12 races to go. We ran well all night long at Bristol. We had a good race car and kept working on it. Strategy just didn't work out like we really needed it to for the finish. We had a car capable of running in the top-five but just never were able to get the position. To start 40th and finish 13th and to dodge a couple of close calls was a good night for us. Those are the kind of finishes we need. We are more than capable of doing it. We've always run very well at California. We should have had a top-10 in February there, but we still finished 13th. If we can run up in the top-10 to top-15 and be there at the end, we will have a shot at winning the race."

The track and weather have changed a lot since you raced at California Speedway in February. What will be the mindset going into this weekend as opposed to your last trip there for the second race of the season?

"People like to try to compare Michigan to California because they are 2-mile race tracks. But there are not a whole lot of similarities between the two, in my opinion. You have to have a car that has the ability to turn well because the corners are a bit tighter. You generally have to run the bottom at California. We're going to try to figure out some things that we struggled with at Michigan and be a contender for a win there. For whatever reason, I've always run decent at California, and it's a fun place. Some races you can go out and run two- and three-abreast, and other races it seems it's more follow-the-leader. It will be interesting to see how the weather has changed the race track since our last race there in February. With this race starting during the day and going into the night, the race track will have a little more grip when it gets dark. When the track has more grip, it will give guys a better opportunity to change lanes and pass a little bit better."

You talked about how much different you think Michigan and California are. There are about three degrees of banking less at California than at Michigan. How does that affect how the track races?

"I think that mechanical grip is a little more important at California. The race track has some larger bumps that generally upset the car. Since the corners have a tighter radius, you don't seem to carry quite as much speed as you do at Michigan. Other than it being a 2-mile race track, there aren't a whole lot of things that are really the same."

Many of the other mile-and-a-half to 2-mile intermediate tracks host races that are 400 miles in length. California's race is 500 miles. What kind of mindset do you have to bring for that extra 100 miles?

"It's a really long race. You start the race with the sun up and then it sets fairly quickly and the race track changes dramatically during that time. You have to have a race car that works well at night. You might start out a little bit free when the sun is up, but you just kind of ride it out and make sure you have a lot of adjustability in the car because the race track does change so much as the night goes on. Since it's 500 miles, it's one of the longer races we get to run. You have to use a lot more patience with that race than you do some of the other ones. Last year, we thought we had a shot at possibly winning the race on fuel mileage. You generally don't see a lot of cautions at California. We were going to be a couple of laps short and we decided not to chance it. I think we ran in the top-10 and the top-12 all day long. There were a few cars that ended up making it on fuel mileage. Regardless of pit strategy, we know that when we go to California, we are going to be pretty decent. If we can just improve on that a little bit, then I think we'll be in contention."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers J.J. Yeley
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing