Fontana II: JJ Yeley race report

Fuel Shortage in California Late Race Stop for Fuel Drops Yeley from Potential Top-Five to 19th in California 500 J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Imitrex® (sumatriptan succinate) Chevrolet, was as high as second with just five laps...

Fuel Shortage in California
Late Race Stop for Fuel Drops Yeley from Potential Top-Five to 19th in California 500

J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Imitrex® (sumatriptan succinate) Chevrolet, was as high as second with just five laps remaining in Sunday night's California 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at California Speedway. But a thirsty fuel cell meant that Yeley had to pit for a splash of gas with just four laps remaining in the 250-lap contest, dropping him to 19th when the checkered flag waved.

"I thought we had a good shot there," said Yeley after the race, "but I didn't know what Steve (Addington, crew chief) was planning. I knew we were getting close to the end on laps. I know our lap times had picked up, so I backed down a little bit to see what the plan was. He said we were a lap short on making it on fuel. Those guys are pretty precise, so we would have been a lap short."

Yeley had struggled during the first half of the race fighting a fickle race car. Often times the No. 18 Imitrex machine would begin a long, green flag run loose heading into the corners, tight in the center of the corner and loose coming out of the corners. Over the team radio, Yeley could often be heard saying that the track felt "greasy," meaning he was sliding around and in desperate need of grip.

But by the end of a run, the car would be the complete opposite - still loose heading into the corners, but tight in the center and tight off. Tire pressure and track bar changes were the order of the day on all but the team's last pit stop for fuel.

During the pit stop on lap 156, the Joe Gibbs Racing crew took air out of all four tires and lowered the track bar. During the pit stop on lap 174, the crew reset the changes, as the No. 18 machine danced between being tight and loose.

As the sun was starting to set by the midpoint of the race, the Imitrex Chevrolet was finally beginning to respond. Yeley reported that the car was beginning to grip the race track, and his lap times picked up as well.

With 20 laps to go, Yeley was in 18th. And as green flag pit stops began, he picked his way toward the front, hoping that he literally had enough gas left in his tank. By lap 10, he was in fifth.

On the pit box, Addington and Co. checked and rechecked their fuel calculations in hopes that their driver would not have to pit, but it was to no avail. With four laps to go, Yeley was ordered to give up his second-place position on the track for a few gallons of fuel. Instead of a much needed, much anticipated top-five finish, Yeley crossed the finish line 19th.

"I was thinking mid-race there that if we could finish top-15, top-20, I'd be real satisfied," said Yeley. "After finishing 19th, it's pretty disappointing now that it's over. I know we had a car that was capable of running real close to 10th, but I guess it's better than the alternative. Over the past couple of weeks, we've had the car coming back on the hook. Tonight it's still in one piece, not a scratch on it."

With his 19th place result, Yeley held steady at 28th in the Nextel Cup point standings, 122 markers outside the top-25.

Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates - Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart - sit seventh and eighth, respectively, in points. Stewart maintained his point standing by finishing ninth in the California 500, while Hamlin lost a position in spite of his seventh-place effort.

Kasey Kahne scored his series-leading fifth victory of the season by winning the California 500. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, while Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon secured the rest of the top-five. Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Stewart and Dale Jarrett comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the Sept. 9 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race begins at 7:40 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by TNT.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kasey Kahne , J.J. Yeley , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing