J.J. Yeley used his Hall of Fame Racing-prepared No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota to battle back from a tough start in Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to finish 27th. The race was...
J.J. Yeley used his Hall of Fame Racing-prepared No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota to battle back from a tough start in Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to finish 27th.
The race was conducted in conditions more befitting of the Ohio State-Michigan football game in late November in Ann Arbor, Mich., than Southern Virginia in late March, as temperatures dipped below 40 degrees and a mist fell throughout much of the 500-lap race.
"It's probably the craziest time I've ever had at Martinsville," said Yeley after completing his fifth career Sprint Cup race at the .526-mile oval. "We had a tough start, but finished-out as best we could."
Yeley started 23rd and cracked the top-20 early in the event. But on lap 21, his DLP HDTV Toyota was tapped from behind after slowing down for an accident while coming off turn four. The contact sent Yeley spinning around and tumbling down the standings, as he fell to 43rd and lost a lap.
Yeley rallied to get his lap back when the caution flag waved for an on-track incident on lap 70, but was again caught up in an accident just a short while later. On lap 106, rookie Sam Hornish Jr., made contact with the No. 96 machine and sent it into the SAFER Barrier that lines the outside retaining wall in between turns one and two. Yeley had to return to the pits for repairs, and as he exited pit road, NASCAR officials determined he exceeded the pit road speed limit, which prompted a pass pass-through penalty at the proper speed limit on the following lap. After all that, Yeley was in 40th-place and multiple laps down.
Given that it was cold and raw, with a heavy mist that never wet the track but made life miserable for those in attendance, it would have been easy for the DLP team to pack it in and accept the 40th-place finish. They did not.
Yeley, with encouragement from new crew chief Steve Boyer, rallied in the last 350 laps to gain 13 spots, and in turn, valuable Sprint Cup points.
"We fought hard," Yeley said. "We had a good car and were running good, we just never had track position. There was a big wreck early coming off of turn four and we spun and that put us back in the pack with some of the crazy guys. We were running really good and got jumbled up and we got punted by Hornish. It put us in a bad position and we lost a couple of laps. Then we got caught speeding and that was a big mistake on my part. I just took off a little too early at the end of pit road.
"The DLP team did an awesome job. They never gave up, I never gave up and the car worked great. I think this is a very positive thing -- having Steve as crew chief. This was a very hard race and he kept the guys fired up and did a good job of keeping everyone abreast of what was going on with the car and the changes we were making. I'm proud of him. It's hard to say you're proud of a 27th-place finish, but everyone worked hard and we made the best of a tough day. That's all you can ask for from your team."
"I think everyone showed a lot of heart today," Boyer said. "It'd be real easy to get down after you get wrecked early at Martinsville, but everybody did a really good job of rallying back and getting the car fixed up. I couldn't be prouder of these guys and the work they did on this DLP Toyota."
Yeley remains 31st in the championship driver standings, with a post-Martinsville total of 468 points. The No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing entry is 32nd in the series' owner standings, with a 33-point buffer over the 36th-place No. 77 team of Penske Racing.
Denny Hamlin won the Goody's Cool Orange 500 to score his fourth career victory, his first of the season and his first at Martinsville.
Finishing .398 of a second behind Hamlin was pole-sitter and seven-time Martinsville race winner Jeff Gordon. Jeff Burton crossed the stripe in third, while Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 18 caution periods for 89 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the April 6 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.