Las Vegas: JJ Yeley race report

Tough Luck Leaves Yeley 18th at Las Vegas Interstate Batteries Team Ninth in Points after Third Straight Top-20 Finish Las Vegas is all about luck. Unfortunately for the Interstate Batteries team, their luck was not exactly what they had hoped...

Tough Luck Leaves Yeley 18th at Las Vegas
Interstate Batteries Team Ninth in Points after Third Straight Top-20 Finish

Las Vegas is all about luck. Unfortunately for the Interstate Batteries team, their luck was not exactly what they had hoped for in Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After running in the top-10 for the majority of the 267-lap race, a hung lug nut on the second-to-last pit stop of the day cost J.J. Yeley and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet precious track position and any chance of a great finish.

However, Yeley and the Interstate Batteries team fought back and managed a solid 18th-place result to earn the team its third consecutive top-20 finish.

"The day started off great," said Yeley. "The Interstate Batteries car was really solid on the race track. I was worried about slipping and sliding around like everyone else was. The whole race the car was really good. It just all depended on your pit strategy and whether you took fuel, four tires or two tires."

After starting 24th, Yeley quickly worked his way toward the front of the field with some smart pit strategy by crew chief Steve Addington and the rest of the Interstate Batteries team. Case in point: taking two tires during a pit stop while under caution on lap 41 catapulted Yeley to ninth on the ensuing restart.

Yeley stayed in and around the top-10 for the next 150 laps until his tires began to lose grip and several cars passed him prior to the team's final green flag pit stop.

To compound the problem of losing several positions prior to the team's last pit stop on lap 214, the hung lug nut cost the team precious time in the pits. While Yeley was the first car a lap down for the last restart of the day, he never got the caution he needed to get his lap back via the "Lucky Dog," which states that the first car one lap down gets its lap back during the next caution.

"We got into a sequence where we only took two tires and the car really got tight late in the run and it hurt me," said Yeley. "We lost six or eight positions in five or 10 laps and it really fell off pretty quick. Then we had a little trouble in the pits when a lug got hung up. We were taking four tires and lost a lot of track position, and because of it, we lost a lap. And then we just didn't have enough time to make that lap up.

"I guess 18th isn't bad with the car in one piece. We'll put it in the trailer and head on down the road to Atlanta. Finishing 18th isn't horribly bad, but we definitely had a better finish in us today."

While the finish isn't what they hoped for, the Interstate Batteries team rebounded from a tough Friday, when Yeley scraped the wall in the opening minutes of the first practice session and the team was forced to go to the backup car.

"The guys had to work really hard, and that put us a little bit behind because we flat-sided the right side of the car during practice leading into qualifying," said Yeley. "We went to a backup car, but it was good enough to be a primary car on some other teams. The car was still good and the guys got the car working really well during final practice. It's a good piece, but losing the track position there at the end was tough."

Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates -- Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Aric Almirola -- finished third, seventh and 41st, respectively. Hamlin scored his first top-10 of the season while Stewart scored his second straight. Almirola made his Nextel Cup debut but retired after 46 laps due to an accident.

Hamlin is now the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his third-place finish moved him up 10 spots to eighth in the standings. Yeley and Stewart occupy the ninth and 13th positions, respectively. Yeley dropped one spot due to his 18th-place result, while Stewart gained eight positions care of his seventh-place finish.

Jimmie Johnson won the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 to score his 24th career Nextel Cup victory and his third consecutive win at Las Vegas. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon finished second, while Hamlin finished third. Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nextel Cup schedule is the March 18 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , J.J. Yeley , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Aric Almirola , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing