J.J. YELEY Let's Play Three HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 11, 2007) --Former Chicago Cub shortstop Ernie Banks once said, "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two!" J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet...
Let's Play Three
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 11, 2007) --Former Chicago Cub shortstop Ernie Banks once said, "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two!"
J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), couldn't agree more. Except he'd rather play three, instead. He's proving that this weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.
Much like Banks, who wished he could play two games each day because of his love for the game of baseball, Yeley has a love for anything that has four wheels and goes fast.
Yeley is anxious to climb back behind the wheel of his Interstate Batteries car this weekend after a strong 10th-place finish last Saturday night in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway -- his first top-10 since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May.
With a little momentum in Car of Tomorrow (COT) races on his side, including finishes of 13th and 10th, respectively, in the past two COT events, Yeley hopes for more top results in his final 10 races driving for JGR.
Before he focuses on Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event, he'll first try to win two races on Saturday. He'll participate in his first-ever NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, driving for Kevin "Bono" Manion, crew chief for the No. 1 Nextel Cup car.
After the 100-lap Modified race, Yeley will climb into the No. 14 USAC Silver Crown car owned by racing legend A.J. Foyt -- his third start for that team this season. In his last race driving for Foyt in July at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Yeley brought home his 13th career Silver Crown victory.
After not making this year's edition of the Chase for the Nextel Cup, Yeley's sole focus the rest of the season will be to race for the love of the sport and to win in whatever he's driving at the time.
Ernie Banks would be proud.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
You are racing Kevin "Bono" Manion's car in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on Saturday. How did the deal come about, and have you ever been in a Modified Tour car before?
"I've never been in an east-coast-style pavement Modified car before. I had planned to run the Silver Crown car Saturday at New Hampshire and I was asked by a couple of guys on Martin Truex's team, who work for DEI and are originally from that area. They had built a car that Bono had a lot of experience working on years ago. Tony Stewart was originally supposed to drive it, but he's now flying to New York to fulfill some Chase for the Nextel Cup media obligations and can't practice or qualify the car on Thursday. They asked me if I would do it and I said, 'What the heck. Why not?' I have nothing else to do Saturday afternoon except to go golfing. It's always fun for me to jump into something and have some fun and try to win the race. It's going to be interesting because I have no clue how the cars drive and what to expect, other than to go out there and try to win."
How much of a difference is it going to be to run a Nextel Cup car, a NASCAR Modified Tour car, and a Silver Crown car all in one weekend and, specifically, in one day?
"I don't think that there's anything you can compare between the three cars. I know that the Modified cars have really huge tires on them and have a lot of grip. I also hear that drafting is a huge thing for those cars at New Hampshire. I've watched those races and they are really exciting. There's a lot of bump drafting that goes on and occasional wrecks. Hopefully, I can dodge some wrecks and bring the thing home in one piece. The Silver Crown cars, because the track is so flat and short, they'll struggle with grip and be a little bit tight. When you talk about the COT car, that's also a fun challenge trying to get them to turn and trying to get the grip we need. There's going to be some diversity there on Saturday. But, nonetheless, I'm really looking forward to going out and having fun."
Years ago, there were a lot of open-wheel guys who took pride in being diverse. A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and others would jump into an Indy Car one week and a stock car the next. Do you pride yourself on being able to jump into different types of cars and run well?
"I've always been able to adapt very well to different types of race cars and run well. I've run different types of cars maybe even on the same weekend, and I've seen some success. For me, at this point because of not making the Chase, we are just going to go out there and try to win races regardless of what type of car it is. It's just going to be something fun to do."
The Interstate Batteries team tested at Milwaukee in preparation for the first New Hampshire race. The team felt good about the test but just didn't have the performance you were hoping for during the July race. What are your thoughts going back to New Hampshire this time around?
"I've run fairly decent at New Hampshire and it's a fun race track. We had such a good test at Milwaukee that we thought we were going to be really good because we were much better than our two teammates at the test. It didn't work out and I guess we found out that the two race tracks don't compare enough to really use information and identical setups. I'm sure we'll go back and change a couple of things. The COT races have been pretty decent for us, especially the past two at Bristol and Richmond. Everyone will be fired up because it's the first race of the Chase, but we will be excited, too, because we are going to go out there to try to win the race. At this point in the season, being 19th in points, we don't have much to lose other than taking chances and risks and doing whatever it takes to try to win races. If consequences put us further back because we gambled, it's not that big of a deal."
In the July New Hampshire race, you were pretty good on long runs, but it took a bit of time to get the car to your liking each run. Was that the toughest COT race that you've run all year long?
"I remember we struggled on the first 10 to 20 laps of each run. On long runs, we seemed to be able to put good lap times together that seemed to compare to the leaders. You just can't afford to give up four or five seconds during the first 20 laps because you will never make that up. It's just too competitive out there. We need to get a little sharper on the setup we'll bring there and it will be different than from what we ran there in July. The weather will be a little bit different. Everyone has to change their base package a bit. Hopefully, we'll go there, run well, and take the chances that we need to in our effort to win the race."
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