J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), flirted with a top-10 finish in the closing laps of Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but got...
J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Impala SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), flirted with a top-10 finish in the closing laps of Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but got shuffled out of the lead pack after the white flag flew and came home in 18th place.
Yeley started 17th, bided his time in the latter half of the 43-car field over the first 400-plus miles of today's 500-mile event -- like most of the top finishers did -- dodged several wrecks in the process, and worked his way into the top-five with 35 laps to go over the 2.66-mile high-banked oval. He helped JGR teammate Tony Stewart work his way into the lead during that charge to the front. Yeley was in fourth place on a lap-156-restart, behind the race-leading Stewart and Penske teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch. When he jumped out of line to again attempt to help Stewart, he lost his place in line courtesy of Juan Pablo Montoya, lost the draft, and found himself falling back to 23rd place by the 160th lap.
"We got up to fourth and I was pushing Tony at the front of the pack and just didn't get back quickly enough," Yeley said. "Juan got up there and got by me, so I had to get down and I got freight-trained. I guess that was pretty much the beginning of the end. It's hard to pass. Nothing's changed. If you're not Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon, nobody goes with you regardless of how fast your race car is."
From there, Yeley was able to work his way up to 10th by the next-to-last lap. But the car of Robby Gordon shredded a tire in front of him. Yeley collected some of the debris and again had to get out of the draft. He lost eight positions by the time he came back around and took the checkered flag in 18th.
"We definitely should've ended up with a top-five finish today," Yeley said. "It's my fault that we didn't. But even there at the end, I got to the outside, we were doing pretty well and should've at least come away with a top-10. I came down the front straightaway and somebody (Robby Gordon) blew a tire and I hammered a bunch of debris and the thing had a really bad vibration. It was shaking. I didn't want to make it through the tri-oval and cut a tire and wreck myself and maybe wreck someone with me, so I just stayed close to the fence, got out of the draft, and ended up 18th. That's Talladega, even in the CoT (Car of Tomorrow)."