J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, finished 19th in Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway after battling an overheating engine, a tight race car and bad luck. Soon...
J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, finished 19th in Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway after battling an overheating engine, a tight race car and bad luck.
Soon after the green flag dropped, Yeley radioed his crew with concerns about the rising water temperatures beneath the hood of his Interstate Batteries Chevrolet.
"My temp is 240," said Yeley on lap 10. Eight laps later, he sounded another alarm. "It's still going. My temps are up to 250." Yeley dropped to the back of the field to try to get clean air to the engine to cool it down.
"Keep getting air to it until we get to a stop," replied crew chief Steve Addington. "Make sure your fan is on and reset your gauges. We'll be alright."
Yeley brought the car in for service during a regularly scheduled stop on lap 45. The over-the-wall crew pulled tape off the grill to allow more air to flow into the engine, changed two tires, added fuel and sent the No. 18 machine back out. Just as they'd hoped, the engine temperature immediately began to drop.
With one problem solved, it was on to the next issue.
"The car is snug on exit and it doesn't like the bottom at all," said Yeley after the race resumed. "It feels like its getting bogged down. It just does not want to go."
In addition to fuel and tires, Addington ordered track bar and air pressure adjustments on each pit stop to try to free up the car's handling, but it seemed as if finding the proper chassis setup was like balancing on the edge of a razor blade.
At times Yeley would charge to the front, but in typical Talladega fashion, he would get shuffled to the rear of the field on the very next lap. Staying up front with the leaders was proving to be a challenge.
A caution on lap 185 gave Yeley one more shot to move up through the field. It was to be a green/white/checkered race to the finish, so Yeley would have just two laps to get from 21st -- his position on the restart -- to a solid top-10 result. And at a track where the draft reigns supreme and drivers jostle for position in multi-car packs, anything is possible.
As luck would have it, a four-car accident brought out the caution flag almost as soon as the green flag dropped. As a result, Yeley was only able to advance two positions. The race finished under caution with the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team in 19th.
"I guess it was just kind of a typical race for me," said Yeley after climbing from the car. "We'd get some good runs to get to the front and then we'd get left behind. I guess I need to figure out a better way of staying up there once I get up there. For whatever reason, we always get shuffled back. I guess it was just a mediocre day."
Yeley's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished 21st and 28th respectively. Hamlin was in the top-10 late in the race, but had to pit for fuel when it was decided the race would finish under a green/white/checkered finish. Stewart was involved in an accident on lap 190, which dropped him from eighth to 28th.
Hamlin is the lead JGR driver in the championship point race, as his 21st-place finish kept him fifth in the standings. Stewart and Yeley occupy the sixth and 21st positions, respectively. Stewart gained one spot due to his 28th-place result, while Yeley gained one position care of his 19th-place finish.