Phoenix II: JJ Yeley preview

J.J. YELEY Old School HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2007) -- Question: What do J.J. Yeley, Tony Stewart, and Ken Schrader have in common? Answer: The trio of drivers is considered to be "Old School" -- willing to compete in just about any type...

Old School

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 6, 2007) -- Question: What do J.J. Yeley, Tony Stewart, and Ken Schrader have in common?

Answer: The trio of drivers is considered to be "Old School" -- willing to compete in just about any type of race car any given week.

Yeley, Stewart and Schrader would have fit in perfectly during the 1960s, when famed drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Bobby Allison, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti would routinely cross over from open-wheel cars to stock cars, or from dirt tracks to pavement.

Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will get yet another chance to prove that he also belongs to in the elite group of diverse race car drivers when he returns to his hometown of Phoenix for this Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500k NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).

Whether it's racing on pavement or dirt, Yeley continues to prove that he has many talents and is just as likely to jump into a USAC Midget car as he is a stock car.

Even though he is only in his second full season on the Nextel Cup circuit, Yeley has proven he can compete and run well in any type of race car. This season alone he has driven Nextel Cup and Busch Series stock cars, jumped behind the wheel of a USAC Midget, Sprint, and Silver Crown car, not to mention stints behind the wheel of a dirt Late Model and a Northeastern-style modified car.

To kick the weekend off, Yeley will compete in Thursday's resurrected Copper World Classic at PIR, an event he has won the USAC Midget portion of twice before. He'll pilot the No. 11 USAC Midget, along with the No. 14 USAC Silver Crown car, for A.J. Foyt Racing, with whom he hopes to notch his fourth Silver Crown victory this season.

On Saturday, Yeley will compete in the NASCAR Busch Series Arizona Travel 200 in the No. 1 car for Phoenix Racing before heading back to nearby Manzanita Speedway to compete in a dirt Late Model.

Finally, and most importantly, he'll get behind the wheel of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet for the final race of the season in the Car of Tomorrow (CoT), with which Yeley has found much success the latter portion of the season.

Adding to his already busy schedule, Yeley will make his first trip back home since signing a three-year contract with Hall of Fame Racing and its new Phoenix-based ownership group led by Arizona Diamondbacks majority owners Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel.

While there will be plenty of family and friends cheering him on this weekend, there won't be a lot of time spent outside the cockpit of a race car.

But the hometown favorite wouldn't have it any other way He's Old      .
School                                                                 .

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

Typically, going home to Phoenix is busy enough. But this weekend might be your busiest yet with all of the extracurricular racing you're participating in. Are you looking forward to it?

"I'm going to be a busy person in Phoenix. I planned to run the Midget and Silver Crown portion of what used to be the Copper World Classic probably six or eight months ago when I found out they were running on the same weekend as the NASCAR events. I'm excited because I've won the USAC Midget portion of the Copper World twice. The trophy is cool, and being from Phoenix, it's always great to have a chance to win at PIR. I'm also going to run at Manzanita Speedway in a dirt Late Model, which I've never done before. I've watched them race there and I think they're tremendous race cars and it should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to cutting loose in some other types of race cars before the season ends. But at the same time, I'm focused on the Interstate Batteries car and hoping for a good weekend. It's the last Car of Tomorrow (CoT) race of the year. The CoT races have been really good with the 18 car the last half of the season."

Some of the drivers haven't been as fond of the CoT car as you are. In fact, you said you prefer racing the CoT car over the conventional car. Why is that?

"I've just really gotten a good feel for the way the CoT car handles. I've gotten used to the things you really have to do to get the car to rotate through the center of the corner. It just takes a lot more patience with the CoT car because they just don't have the grip. For me to say that is kind of funny because last year I was overdriving the car. Now, I think I've learned patience, which is what you need to make the car turn 40 laps into a run. When I get back into the conventional car, it seems like I'm a little more uncomfortable when the car isn't exactly where I want it to be. Before, I would just drive it however it was. Maybe that's how I've been able to keep myself out of trouble this year."

In Phoenix back in April, you were running in the top-10 late in the race and got caught up in someone else's accident. Does the way you've run so strong in the CoT races this year, combined with how well you ran at PIR in the spring, give you confidence leading into this weekend?

"I think we've learned some things that Steve Addington (crew chief) and the rest of the team can apply to my driving style that differs from Tony (Stewart) and Denny (Hamlin, teammates). I've been really comfortable in the car in the CoT races. Going back to Phoenix and knowing that the package is a lot better than we had earlier in the year is really exciting. It would be really special and exciting to win my first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race at PIR. It would be huge for my career and great for Interstate Batteries and future sponsor DLP. The boost would be great leading into next season. The fans at Phoenix are always great when we're there. I feel like a Dale Earnhardt Jr., or Jeff Gordon when I go back home since the hometown fans give me that kind of support and applause during driver intros there. They have been great supporting their hometown driver, for sure. When you hear that kind of support, it gives you a lot more confidence. Just knowing there are that many people out there rooting for you might make you give that little bit of extra effort."

The USAC Copper World Classic has changed weekends and will now run in conjunction with NASCAR. How has that event evolved with the influx of USAC talent to NASCAR in recent years?

"The Copper World just hasn't been the same since they used to run in January, when you had the USAC cars, the Southwest Tour and the Modified cars. It was its own show and a lot of great drivers showed up. They tried to move it in conjunction with the IndyCar Series events and it just never worked out the way they would have liked. Now that it's going to be on a NASCAR weekend, I think it's going to be a ton of fun. I hope there will be a lot of people coming out to enjoy the race. The USAC Midgets put on the best show they have at PIR. When you have 40 or so cars out there running three abreast, it's more like a Talladega Superspeedway than a one-mile short track. To go there and win would be huge. I've started a National Sprint Car team that is going to participate in the United States Auto Club in 2008 with a young driver from Missouri named Hunter Schuerenberg. He's run some races here at the end of the season and run very well in the Midget car. I'm just trying to give him some experience before running him in the 2008 Chili Bowl. He'll be in Phoenix racing Manzanita Speedway, as well next weekend in one of my cars. I'm just trying to give back to one of the guys who maybe needs the right equipment put underneath him to give him the opportunity at this point his career to move his way up the racing ladder, similar to what I've been able to do."

Take us on a lap around your hometown Phoenix International Raceway. What's different now with the introduction of the CoT?

"It seems like, especially in the CoT, you can really charge the entry of the corner into turn one as hard as you can, even more so than in the old car. It's very important to get the car slowed down and get it pointed as soon as possible in the center of (turns) one and two. That way, you can get back to the throttle. That's why guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are the best at getting the car slowed down and turned so you can get back into the throttle and make that back straightaway longer than it really is. Going through three and four, especially since it's so different than turns one and two, you want to carry a lot of momentum but still try to pick that throttle up early. The two ends of the race track are totally different at Phoenix International Raceway and I think that's something that makes it a lot more fun, because it has such a different look and feel to it."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Mario Andretti , J.J. Yeley , Bobby Allison , A.J. Foyt , Hunter Schuerenberg
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Hall of Fame Racing , Phoenix Racing