J.J. YELEY Reversal of Fortune HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 31, 2007) -- It was clear the moment the burden had lifted. It was the week leading up to the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September and J.J.
Reversal of Fortune
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 31, 2007) -- It was clear the moment the burden had lifted.
It was the week leading up to the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September and J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), had just signed a three-year deal with Hall of Fame Racing to race the No. 96 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2008.
During the last green-flag run of the Richmond race, Yeley stormed through the field, gaining 12 positions in 50 laps to notch the first top-10 finish since his career-best second-place run in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) in May.
Over the next six races prior to the fall event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Yeley notched two top-10s and four top-15 finishes and accumulated more points than five of the 12 drivers competing in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
Then, bad luck reared its ugly head.
In his last two races, Yeley has not finished higher than 35th. He lost a motor at Martinsville and finished 42nd, then cut a tire at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend. Damage from the latter incident forced him behind the wall for repairs. As a result, he took the checkered flag in 35th.
There is no better place for Yeley to turn around his bad luck than Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth during Sunday's Dickies 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race.
Texas Motor Speedway is in the backyard of Yeley's current sponsor, Dallas-based Interstate Batteries. Texas Instruments and its DLP HDTV division, which will sponsor him in the No. 96 car next season, is also based in Dallas.
Unfortunately, Texas has never been to kind to Yeley. In his last trip to the 1.5-mile oval, he was taken out of the race on the first lap by rookie David Ragan. He finished that race dead last.
But Yeley hopes to reverse his fortune this weekend. His goal is to give his team and his current sponsor, Interstate Batteries, the finish they've worked so hard for all year -- a trip to victory lane.
J.J. YELEY (Driver, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet):
Before the Richmond race, you announced your move to Hall of Fame Racing in 2008. You then went on a streak of great finishes. But in the last two weeks, you've been bit by back luck, again. Is Texas the perfect place to get back on track?
"It's just part of racing. We had a really good car at Martinsville and I really look forward to the CoT races. Unfortunately, we had an engine go and it ended our day early. Then, at Atlanta, we had a tire go down. It wasn't exactly how we wanted the last couple of weeks to go. We had some really good runs in the top-10. There are some other drivers who have had some bad luck, and they've even been running better than we have been. It's just part of the sport and part of the business. You have to keep your head up and always give it 100 percent because these races are so long and so much can happen in a short amount of time. You never know what to expect."
You tested at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Monday and Tuesday with Hall of Fame Racing for the second time this year. How did the test go for you?
"It went really well. We worked on a lot of different packages. I guess that's the only disadvantage of having a one-car team -- not having other teams to try different things. We had to spend a lot of time trying our own different packages and whatever the engineers could come up with. We started out really conservatively, and whenever we would make a change, the car would gain speed. We actually had a chassis rub that hurt our time for awhile. I think we probably had a top-10 race car, but we ended up just outside the top-10. The car is driving comfortably and the guys are getting along well. I can already see that things are going really smoothly for it being only our second test. It just gives me a lot of confidence in this team for 2008."
The last time you were at Texas Motor Speedway you also ran into some bad luck, getting taken out on the first lap. Texas is a big race for you because Interstate Batteries is based there. How will you reverse your fortune there?
"Texas has always been a race track I dread going to. It's not that I don't like the facility or the people, especially since my sponsors are located in the area. It just seems like whether it's a Busch car or a Nextel Cup car, we just run into bad luck. Sometimes it's driver-induced, but most of the time it's just crazy stuff that normally doesn't happen. Hopefully, we can get to Texas and have all the bad luck out of the way over the last few of weeks. I look forward to getting the car comfortable with Steve Addington (crew chief) and the whole Interstate Batteries crew so we can get the car where it's driving good and run up front and try to get a win."
Since you've been racing in the Nextel Cup Series, Texas races have always been a big deal for you. Your sponsor Interstate Batteries is based in Dallas, and your next-year's sponsor, DLP HDTV and Texas Instruments, are based there as well. How big of a weekend is this for you with both sponsors?
"When you go to Texas, you know it's one of the favorite races for the fans. I think it has the second- or third-highest attendance. It's just amazing to see how many fans are there, and the track always produces great racing. We want to have an exceptional run for Interstate Batteries, and because of some changes they are making next year, they won't be involved in as many races. We definitely want to send Interstate out the right way with me behind the wheel and hopefully have a picture of us with that big trophy."
You are bringing back a car that is one of the best downforce cars at JGR, but you've had some issues with it in qualifying at Charlotte and at some other places. Are you looking forward to a full race with this car to see what it's capable of?
"I sure hope so. It's a great race car and the wind tunnel numbers are great on that car. It seems that we just can't catch a break with that car. It's not a matter of being uncomfortable with the car, or it not performing. It just always seems to run into some situation that costs us. We'll take it to Texas and hope for some good luck. I know we are capable of a top-10 and hope for an opportunity to win the thing."