Open: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Back in Black HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (May 15, 2007) -- Those expecting to see J.J. Yeley in the customary green No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing at this weekend's NEXTEL All-Star event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor...

Back in Black

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C., (May 15, 2007) -- Those expecting to see J.J. Yeley in the customary green No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing at this weekend's NEXTEL All-Star event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway may have to take a second look.

Let's say black is the new green in the Interstate Batteries camp as the No. 18 team is stirring things up this weekend. In spite of the color change from green to black, Yeley's race car will keep the lightning bolt scheme introduced at the beginning of the 2007 season. The No. 18 will return to its familiar green theme for the May 27 Coca-Cola 600 and beyond.

Yeley knows his black Interstate Batteries car will shine under the lights in Charlotte. He's also hoping that the "black attack" will help him shine in the Nextel Open.

At the moment, Yeley is not eligible to compete in the Nextel All-Star Challenge. Only those who have won a race in 2006 or 2007, in addition to All-Star Challenge winners and Nextel Cup champions from the past 10 years, can participate in the Challenge.

Thus, Yeley will have to race his way into the All-Star Challenge during the Nextel Open.

Only three drivers competing in the 40-lap Nextel Open will transfer to the All-Star Challenge -- the top two finishers plus the Nextel Open driver who wins the fan vote (log onto for more information). In order to be the recipient of the fan vote, the selected driver must finish on the lead lap of the Nextel Open and not be one of the top two drivers.

Everyone else goes home.

While the goal will undoubtedly be to run for the big money in the million-dollar, winner-take-all All-Star Challenge, Yeley may still play a role in the 100-lap event regardless of whether or not he is one of the three drivers to transfer from the Nextel Open.

Yeley and two other drivers have been approached about becoming a pit reporter for SPEED's first-ever live coverage of the event. It has not been decided who will don the headset and microphone, but Yeley is definitely up for that challenge.

Joining the ranks of the media for the All-Star challenge would be fun for Yeley, but there is little doubt that a trip to victory lane on Saturday night in either race would be his first choice.

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

For the NEXTEL All-Star weekend you will be sporting a new paint scheme. Are you excited about the black car?

"It's not so much because we have a black car but we just get to do something cool and different. To me it's fun because that race is about fun. It's about going out there with a different car and driving 100% to try to make the race. There aren't any points, so you don't hold back. You can just go for it. I'm glad everyone at Interstate Batteries wanted to have a little fun with a black car. Hopefully everyone likes the car because from the drawings I've seen, it's going to be very cool."

You only have one opportunity to make the All-Star Challenge this weekend. I'm sure you would have preferred to make the race by virtue of a win this year, correct?

"Obviously it would be a lot easier if I could go out there and win a race. It's not from a lack of trying. It's been our goal to go out to the race track every week and try to win a race. But there are 42 other guys that want to do the same thing. It would be nice to win a race and be locked into the (Challenge). Last year, we had a good car for the Nextel Open but we raced Denny (Hamlin, teammate) and got held up a bit. I think we had a shot at racing our way in. We've always had fast race cars coming to Charlotte. If it comes down to the fact that we don't win a race, then we'll just have to do it there on Saturday."

What is your strategy for winning the Nextel Open?

"You'd better qualify well. Generally, there's not a lot of passing. Charlotte is an aero track and 20 laps isn't really enough that the times are going to fall off a bunch. We've qualified well at most of the mile-and-a-half race tracks that are like Charlotte. There are enough things on our side that may help us make the All-Star race."

While the goal is to make the All-Star Challenge, if you don't make the event, will it be fun to work as a pit reporter for SPEED's live broadcast?

"If it happens, it's going to be something different for me to do. I'm sure I'll be more nervous than I am in a race car, especially at the beginning. If I had my choice though, I would be in the race and someone else would be doing the TV duties, so we'll see. I'm sure we'll go chase down some crew chiefs and hopefully ask those guys some questions that they might not normally hear. Maybe we can get some top secret info that can help us in the Coca-Cola 600 the next week."

Richmond and Darlington were supposed to have run under the lights on a Saturday night, but both races were postponed due to rain. Does postponing the race have any effect on you?

"It's really no big deal. It doesn't change a whole lot of things. I think at Richmond, our car handled a lot better during the night time practices and testing than it did during the day time. I think I might have had a little better race car there at night instead of on Sunday during the day. As far as having the delay, it really doesn't change a whole lot of things since races are usually on Sundays. While I enjoy the Saturday night races, Sunday is the usual and at Richmond and Darlington, it was just back to the usual day at the office."

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers J.J. Yeley