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J.J. YELEY Dude, What Happened To Summer Vacation? CORNELIUS, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2007) -- To say that J.J. Yeley and the DLP HDTV/Hall of Fame Racing team are a little busy would be a minor understatement. Consider that the 50th Daytona 500 ended...

Dude, What Happened To Summer Vacation?

CORNELIUS, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2007) -- To say that J.J. Yeley and the DLP HDTV/Hall of Fame Racing team are a little busy would be a minor understatement.

Consider that the 50th Daytona 500 ended at around 7 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Feb. 17. And just more than 16 hours later, Yeley and the Hall of Fame Racing crew were testing at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., in preparation for this weekend's Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at California Speedway in Fontana.

The team tested a few weeks ago at California, but was not entirely happy with the results. So after getting back to Charlotte around midnight, Yeley and the DLP team slept just a few hours before hopping on a flight to Nashville at 6 a.m. Monday to get back to work.

For Yeley, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, it made a busy week even busier. He drove the Daytona 500 on Sunday, tested Monday at Nashville, flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday night and will spend all day Wednesday at Toyota Racing Development (TRD) headquarters in Torrance, Calif., before heading to Fontana for this weekend's race.

Busy? Sure. But no one said being successful was going to be easy.

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

What are your overall thoughts heading to California?

"We went and tested after Daytona at Nashville, just to get an idea of where we wanted to start with a set-up going into California. We just were not very satisfied with the way the two days of testing went at California (Jan. 31 to Feb. 1). We didn't want to just go back to California and take a shot in the dark, so we started analyzing previous tests compared to the California test and found some small things that had changed and that gave us an idea of what to work on. Going to Nashville on Monday and running through those tests, we found a couple of things that are going to be huge for us. They're going to make me a lot more comfortable in the car and make the car turn and have better grip -- all the things that are pretty much very important to go fast, especially at a track like California, where getting on the throttle early and building that momentum is very important."

How hard was it for you to turn around after the Daytona 500 and go right to a test on Monday at Nashville?

"It was pretty challenging. It was roughly midnight before we got back to the house in Charlotte, and to turn around and fly at 6 a.m. the next morning makes for a very short evening, especially since the rest of my family seemed to have gotten ill on the way back from Daytona. So, it made it that much more difficult to know I had to go test knowing that my wife and daughter were home sick. It was a very productive test and we went through everything we needed too. We ran clear through to 5:30 p.m. (CST) and I'm very thankful that we took the time to go do the test versus just guessing at the changes heading into California. Especially considering it appears the weather might be questionable on Friday and Saturday, which could cut down practice time."

What does it say about the level of commitment from Hall of Fame Racing and the DLP HDTV team that they are willing to head right to a test after 12 grueling days at Daytona?

"It's tremendous. Daytona didn't exactly go the way we would have liked. We were there for a very long time. The guys worked harder than most because we ran the Bud Shootout and then having the engine problems that we did. To me, that could have really dampened their spirits from the fact we're in the Bud Shootout and have engine problems and don't run well, we have a great car testing, we go to qualifying and have more engine problems and we qualify very poorly. Their hopes were really kind of high going into Daytona. To really kind of struggle through two of the bigger events, starting with the Daytona 500, it shows a lot of spirit on the team's part that they are dedicated to make this program very good and to me they've really proven that they are willing to do whatever it takes to become a successful team."

You talked about the engine issues at Daytona. How did you feel about that problem getting fixed?

"It's probably something that wouldn't have gotten solved any other way but with the efforts of everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and the fine people at Toyota going into overtime to try and find the root of the problem and not just say it was one thing and sort of scuff it off. They went and made sure they knew exactly what the problem was, knowing that we couldn't go into the first CoT (Car of Tomorrow) race at Daytona just hoping that they'd fixed the problem. The changes and dedication from the engine departments were incredible. We didn't get our Gatorade 150 engine until 6 a.m. the day of the race, and the guys thrashed to get it in and ready before it was time to race. That really showed that the engine was going to last and it gave us confidence going into Sunday that we could do 500 miles with the highest rpms possible and still have a reliable engine that had the power we needed."

How does the new car drive compared to the old car at California?

"The car just doesn't have the downforce that the older cars did, so you really have to change the approach of how you're going to race and qualify. Everything is essentially changed with these cars. You're going to see track position be more critical than it has ever been, which is going to make qualifying very critical, also. There some guys who have already commented that you just can't drive the car the same, you just can't approach traffic the same, so it's pretty much going to be a new race starting from scratch for every guy out there. This is going to be one of the fastest tracks the CoT is going to be on this year, so it's really going to be a test for the cars and the teams."

You've had a busy three weeks already. Are you ready for a break?

"I don't know that I'm ready for a break, but I know once we get through Vegas and head right to Phoenix for a test, I'll be ready for a break by then. It's funny how you can take two months off, then go right back into the fire and that's pretty much what it is. You go from relaxing, trying to find something to keep yourself busy, to just struggling for a minute just trying to catch your breath and wondering which direction you need to be pointing to make some headway. It really just comes down to managing your time and focusing on the job at hand. It helps that my family really understand what it takes. So far, so good, but once we get though California, Vegas and the Phoenix test, it will be nice to slow down a bit."

-credit: hofr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers J.J. Yeley
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing , Toyota Racing