J.J. Yeley had a strong run spoiled by an accident not of his making Saturday night in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Yeley, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota for Hall of Fame ...
J.J. Yeley had a strong run spoiled by an accident not of his making Saturday night in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Yeley, driver of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota for Hall of Fame Racing, qualified 22nd for the 312-lap race, but had to start from the rear of the field after the team was forced to change engines during Saturday's practice session.
The setback didn't hurt Yeley, however, as he worked his way up to 25th by lap 109 by gaining the second most spots of any driver at that point in the race.
Despite the heavy gain in positions, a long green flag run meant that Yeley was set to go a lap down as the field began to make pit stops on lap 110. However, just before Yeley was scheduled to pit, Joe Nemechek crashed to bring out a caution that saved Yeley from going a lap down. He then pitted during the caution on lap 115.
When the race restarted on lap 121, Yeley was on the lead lap in 17th-place and working his way toward the top-10.
Unfortunately, the racing gods disrupted the run on lap 134.
Ryan Newman had engine problems, which sprayed the track with oil and sent several cars spinning in between turns three and four. Yeley thought he had the accident scene cleared when his DLP Toyota was hit in the rear by Reed Sorenson's Dodge.
"It looked like the 12 (Newman) blew up right about the dogleg, and I'm surprised that NASCAR took so long to throw the caution," Yeley said. "I think if they could have got the caution out quicker, maybe everybody would have slowed down before we drove into three there at speed and went into an ice-skating rink.
"I saw it and went to the outside where I'd been running. I was clear and then I think it was the 41 (Sorenson) that dove below me. He must have got in the oil and slipped, hit me in the left-rear corner and and got me into the fence. It's definitely not the day we were looking for coming back here to Phoenix. We caught a break there with the caution and we were up to about the 15th or 16th spot and had a pretty good race car. It's disappointing."
The DLP Toyota suffered heavy front-end damage and crew chief Steve Boyer led the Hall of Fame Racing team as they spent more than an hour repairing the car in the garage area. The DLP crew replaced nearly the entire front-end of the car, including the radiator, most of the sub-structure, the right-front suspension, the nose, hood and several pieces of body work.
"The DLP guys did a good job," Yeley said. "They worked their tails off to get us back out there and pick up some points."
After returning to the race on lap 218, Yeley managed to move from 42nd to 39th for a net pick-up of nine points.
Yeley's 39th-place finish dropped him two spots to 35th in the championship driver standings, with a post-Phoenix total of 551 points. The No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing entry is 36th in the series' owner standings, three points behind the 35th-place No. 01 car of Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Jimmie Johnson gambled on fuel and won the Subway Fresh Fit 500k. It was his 34th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second consecutive triumph at Phoenix, as he won in his previous visit to Phoenix last November.
Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 42 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the race.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for the April 27 Aaron's 499. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.