Home Sweet Home: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test A Welcome Pit Stop For Phoenix Native J.J. Yeley Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr. Looking Forward To Phoenix Test Gains PHOENIX, Ariz. (March 3, 2008) -- With its well-known roster of fitness ...
Home Sweet Home: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test A Welcome Pit Stop For
Phoenix Native J.J. Yeley
Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr. Looking Forward To Phoenix Test Gains
PHOENIX, Ariz. (March 3, 2008) -- With its well-known roster of fitness spas and desert resorts, Phoenix's reputation isn't necessarily that of a diet-buster.
Unless you're J.J. Yeley (No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota) and can smell the home cooking across state lines.
"Well, my diet has been going good, so coming back is going to kill me," Yeley said Monday, during the lunch break on the first day of a two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at Phoenix International Raceway.
Citing Mexican and regional food favorites, Yeley rued his caloric damage, but also admitted he was happy about the testing stopover in his hometown -- and not solely for culinary reasons.
"It's always fun to come back here to Phoenix because this is the race track I have the most experience," Yeley said during Monday's visit to Phoenix's infield media center. "I've had a lot of good runs here. So far today, we were third-fastest in the morning practice. It's nice to come back and feel comfortable and go fast."
Third on the speed chart after Monday's morning session -- at 131.062 mph (27.468 seconds) -- Yeley trailed only session leader Paul Menard (No. 15 Menard's Chevrolet) at 131.186 mph (27.442 seconds) and Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), who was second-quickest at 131.128 mph (27.454 seconds).
The two-day test at PIR is the fourth of six NASCAR-sanctioned tests in 2008 for NASCAR Sprint Cup teams, which were scheduled for three sessions Monday and two on Tuesday.
For Yeley, it's another step in the acclimation process to his new team, Hall of Fame Racing. He's 31st in the series standings following the season's first three events, and expects improvement once communication lines solidify.
"You know, for me, after yesterday's run, I was really looking forward to getting back here to Phoenix," Yeley said of last Sunday's 27th-place finish at Las Vegas. "The Hall of Fame team ran well here last year right out of the box. The car was very fast, very comfortable.
"We have a ways to go still. You know, it's a new team. We're just trying to get the relationship between myself and Brandon Thomas, the crew chief, all of the guys. There are a lot of different packages you can run with these new cars. It's just a matter of trying to find the fastest one that's going to be the most comfortable for me."
He's already comfortable with Hall of Fame's new majority owners, Arizona Diamondbacks executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel -- another hometown connection that resonates, particularly when the series returns for its April event at PIR.
"It's been a lot of fun," Yeley said. "Jeff and Tom are both really super guys. They're going to open up a lot of doors for myself and this team from a business standpoint. I know that it's going to be a lot of fun. I know I've already been scheduled to throw out the first pitch at one of the Diamondbacks' games. Hopefully I can get out there and make it a strike.
"It's going to be fun coming back and have that relationship to really try to build something for the Phoenix-based fans, to give them something to root for."
Phoenix Test Quick Turnaround For Drivers, Teams ... This week's test, on the heels of last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, precedes Sunday's event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That means a busy stretch of travel and competition, but Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil Dodge), who also visited Phoenix's media center on Monday, both said the testing data was well worth the time.
"For us, yes, we raced yesterday," said Montoya, who finished 19th at Las Vegas. "It was a little hard. But you just get here. You just drive the race car, so it's not so bad."
Both drivers used different strategies; Montoya ran the Monday morning session, while Hornish began with Monday's afternoon session.
"We ran pretty well this morning," Montoya said. "As it gets hotter, the track always gets slicker. But that's pretty normal. I think what's good about where we're testing now, the weather is more similar to what we'll have when we race here. I think that's going to help us."
"It really probably is more beneficial for us to run the afternoon and the evening practice tonight just because it's more like what we're going to get when we come back here for the race," he said, citing the additional rest for his crew. "It was nice for me at least to be able to sleep in a little bit. I know the guys appreciated it, too."
Hornish, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, weathered the toughest weekend thus far of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career at Las Vegas. An accident during last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying cost him opportunity to make that event field, and last Sunday's 41st-place NASCAR Sprint Cup finish was punctuated by early on-track trouble and repeated garage repairs.
Phoenix, by comparison, was a welcome sight. Hornish made both his NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series debuts at Phoenix last November. A former Indianapolis 500 and Indy Racing League champion for Penske Racing, Hornish also won his first and last career open-wheel events at Phoenix.
"I think this year, hopefully being a little bit smarter, knowing more about the cars, I look forward to coming out here and getting some more track time," he said, "learning a little bit more and hopefully having a good run when we come back out here for the race."
What: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing (the fourth of six NASCAR-sanctioned tests for 2008
Where: Phoenix International Raceway.
Track Layout: 1-mile tri-oval.
When: Monday, March 3 through Tuesday, March 4.
Times: 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., on Monday; 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Tuesday
Who: 47 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.