Homestead: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 13, 2007) --NASCAR and William Shakespeare don't exactly go hand in hand, but one of Shakespeare's most famous phrases from Romeo and Juliet, "Parting is such sweet sorrow," ...

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 13, 2007) --NASCAR and William Shakespeare don't exactly go hand in hand, but one of Shakespeare's most famous phrases from Romeo and Juliet, "Parting is such sweet sorrow," might be the most appropriate way to describe J.J. Yeley's emotions this coming weekend.

Yeley's NASCAR career began when the former USAC standout signed with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in November 2003.

Fast forward to this week-- exactly four years after joining JGR-- and Yeley will drive the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet one final time Sunday when he takes the green flag for the Ford 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Overall, Yeley has made 166 NASCAR starts for the JGR team that gave the former open-wheeler the opportunity to move to stock cars -- 78 behind the wheel of the Interstate Batteries Nextel Cup car and 88 starts for JGR in the Busch Series.

And while this weekend will no doubt be bittersweet for Yeley, he also knows his future is bright as he prepares for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV car for Hall of Fame Racing.

As Juliet said goodnight to her Romeo, a sorrowful parting was also sweet as she looked forward to the next time she'd see her beloved.

As for Yeley, he has built friendships at JGR that will last a lifetime. While he's sad to leave the team that he's grown close to, Yeley knows he'll see them less than three months from now at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Only then, those friends will turn from teammates to competitors.

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

This weekend, you will make your final start with Joe Gibbs Racing. You must be excited about next season, but are there any mixed feelings about your last race with JGR?

"It's going to be totally different for me. I go from one of the teams at the pinnacle of racing to a team that I believe will become that in years to come. It's not like I'm leaving the sport. I still have a lot of friends at Joe Gibbs Racing and just because I'm leaving the team doesn't mean that we won't be friends. In my mind, it really doesn't change a lot of things other than, when I come to the race track, I'll have a new team and I'll work with a different bunch of guys who will become friends in the future."

This weekend, you'll make your 166th start with Joe Gibbs Racing before leaving for Hall of Fame Racing next season. Looking back on your career with JGR, what stands out the most to you?

"We've had a lot of success but never got that win, yet, on the NASCAR level. We finished second several times between the Busch and the Nextel Cup Series. What stands out the most to me was at Chicago during my rookie Busch season in 2004, where I thought we had the car to beat. We took a shot at pitting and, looking at it afterward, it ended up being the wrong call and we might have given away the win. It makes me think about how my career might have changed if I would have won a Busch Series race my 10th time in a race car. I think things would be different now. But I've had a good career so far at the NASCAR level. I'm going to continue to work hard and try to win races and championships and build on my experience in the car. I'm looking forward to working with future crew chiefs on what it's going to take for me to run consistently in the top-10 and top-five every week. Just because you get to this level doesn't mean you have to stop trying. You have to work extra hard once you make it to this level than you do learning and trying to get to this level."

It seems like a long time ago that you announced you're joining Hall of Fame Racing in 2008. Now that you look back on it, was it difficult to look ahead to the future while still focusing on the present at JGR?

"It really hasn't been that difficult. I know what next year holds for me. I was certainly paying more attention to the 96 team at the end of the season to see how they were doing and look at their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, we've been working really hard with the No. 18 car to stay in the top-20 in points. We had rough weekends in Martinsville and Atlanta that set us back a bit. I know, for the guys, the higher we can keep the Interstate Batteries car in points, the better off it is for those guys with bonuses and pride. We've got a pretty big fight going into Homestead and we are in a position to gain two spots. We have to just go out there and perform and at least come away with a top-10 finish. Last year, it looked like we were going to sneak away with a top-five at Homestead and a really late caution, with four or five laps to go, got the fuel pickup away from the engine and the engine starved on the last restart. We had enough fuel to make it if the race had stayed green. Last year, we took a chance to stay up there and I'm sure we would do the same this year to have a shot at winning the race."

What will it take to be successful at Homestead this weekend?

"It's still a mile-and-a-half race track, but it's more of an oval track than a lot of the tri-oval mile-and-a-half race tracks we go to. We start the race during the day and finish up at night, so there are a lot of changes in the race track over the course of the race. You really have to build in the adjustability into the race car. We are taking a new race car there to try to finish out the year strong. Some of the intermediate race track cars that we have finished up the season with have been really good cars, numbers-wise, but maybe not the best fit for my driving style. Steve Addington (crew chief) decided to change it up a bit and go for broke for the last one of the season."

Since it is the last race of the season and you aren't running for a championship, is this weekend all about fun?

"Every weekend to me is about fun because it makes things go a lot smoother for myself and the team to try to keep things light. I think we do a good job when the race starts to stay focused and keep working on the race car. I generally don't put a lot of pressure on myself during the weekend because it tends to create more havoc than it does help. We'll go and have fun during practice and work hard on the race car. We've run well at Homestead before and I don't expect it to be different this time."

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing