J.J. YELEY Unfinished Business HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 14, 2007) -- Going into this weekend's 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, J.J. Yeley feels like he has plenty of unfinished business. Yeley, driver of...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 14, 2007) -- Going into this weekend's 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, J.J. Yeley feels like he has plenty of unfinished business.
Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), captured his first career pole at Michigan in June but went on to a disappointing 28th-place finish after fighting a tight condition most of the day.
Michigan happens to be one of Yeley's favorite race tracks because of its smooth, wide surface with multiple grooves that allow for plenty of passing.
Yeley's other piece of unfinished business will start this week and extend until November as he will have 14 more opportunities to bring the No. 18 Interstate Batteries car back to victory lane.
While Yeley won't return to JGR in 2008, he hopes to build a lasting memory with the team and sponsor that gave the former open-wheel standout to make the move to NASCAR.
There might not be anybody else in the garage who has more unfinished business to take care the rest of this year than Yeley. Starting this weekend, he'll have several more opportunities to finish the job he started at JGR.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
Going back to Michigan after winning the pole there in June, then having a tough time in the race, do you feel like you have some unfinished business there this time around?
"I sure hope we have a good run. We are going to go back with the special '57 Chevy paint scheme on the Interstate Batteries Chevrolet. We won the pole in the spring there but we just didn't have a good race car. We are going to go back with a different car and try to take a different approach. We ran well there in both races last year and it's one of my favorite race tracks on the circuit. We don't necessarily need to be on the pole again, but I would trade the pole for a top-five-handling race car."
With the news that you will be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season, is that a bit of a relief and are you looking forward to getting on with the end of the season and focus on running well in the remaining time you have with JGR?
"I am relieved a bit. There's been a lot of uncertainty for even the last couple of months. And because I am at the end of a contract year, it is good to know what's going on and have a direction. My main goal is just to run as well as I can the rest of the year for all the guys on the Interstate Batteries team who have worked their tails off. We've been good, but we just haven't been where we needed to be. I'd love to go out there and win for these guys. They've been working really hard since Bobby (Labonte) was still here. We're not going to let what's going to happen next year affect this year. I'm going out there and race as hard as I possibly can and try to get the car up as high in points as we can and have some fun."
What has Joe Gibbs Racing done for your career?
"They have definitely given me a shot. In 2003, I was a Sprint car driver racing Saturday nights and living a dream. I know because of Tony Stewart I got a lot more of a boost to come to Joe Gibbs Racing. I followed the same footsteps that he took to get here. To be given the opportunities that I've been given, I can't complain about anything. I love the relationship I've built with everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. I have a lot of friends here and it's going to be difficult to leave to go somewhere else. But this is still a business. You have to think what's going to be best for the team and myself, and we're working that way."
You won your first career pole at Michigan in June. Is track position important there? Or would you much rather trade that pole in for a better finish?
"I don't think that track position is as huge at Michigan as it is at a place like California or others that are equal in speed and size, just because there are so many racing grooves at Michigan that you can get away with running the top, middle, or bottom. If you have a good-driving race car, I think you can very easily come from the middle or back of the pack and still get to the front."
The intermediate-track program has been pretty good for you this year. Does the pole in June at Michigan, and how you ran at Charlotte and other places, give you hope for a good finish going into the weekend?
"I sure hope so. I was really looking forward to going to Pocono a few weeks ago. We had a race car that I thought was going to be good and came to find out we had a lower ball joint was damaged. To have things out of my control, and even the crew's control, affect how the car can drive and make us have a tough race day is not a lot of fun. Those are things you try to avoid, but sometimes you just can't. Hopefully, we have some luck on our side since it seems like that is something we don't always get. At the same time, we need to go out there and attack and do our best to gain back some points we've lost in the last couple of weeks."
Why is Michigan International Speedway so competitive and why do drivers like it so much?
"To me, it's because Michigan is so wide. It's got more banking than California (Speedway). It's just a racier track. The groove is five grooves wide. When you go to California, you'll always see that. There are still enough bumps in the race track to give it enough character that some drivers prefer the bottom and some guys prefer the top. And having that variety makes for good racing."