Watkins Glen: JJ Yeley - Friday media visit

J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed his coming departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, his focus for the rest of the season, where he may end up next year, teams he's been talking to, why MIS is...

J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Impala SS, met with members of the media and discussed his coming departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, his focus for the rest of the season, where he may end up next year, teams he's been talking to, why MIS is so competitive, what he looks for in an owner, manufacturer preference, on whether or not he will finish the season and on what changes could have been made to give him a better season.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? "Well, right now I'm leaving Joe Gibbs Racing. I have a lot of good opportunities in store for me. I don't have a date set on when I'm going to announce what I'm doing but I have talked to several different teams. I can assure you that all the teams I'm talking to are all top-quality teams that want to make me a championship-caliber driver. They want to put an effort behind me that we can go win races. That's what I'm excited about."

WHY DO YOU THINK THINGS DIDN'T WORK OUT HERE? "I guess if I knew that I'd go buy a lottery ticket and be a rich man. It's difficult to say. Obviously there's excellent equipment here at Joe Gibbs Racing. The engines, the cars, teammates do good. Our problem wasn't the fact that we weren't fast, we were just too inconsistent. We never made huge changes to see if there was going to be something out there that was going to help the program but maybe a little too late. But wherever I go they're going to make sure that we're going to do whatever it takes to win races."

HOW DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR FOCUS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? "It doesn't change it at all. For the most part it takes a lot of burden off my shoulders and probably the team's shoulders because I know nothing is official yet. I'm sure that something will become official here shortly but I know what my future holds for me. Now I don't have to worry about what's going to happen. I can go out there and drive the race car. The crews can work on the thing. We'll go out there.my goals aren't going to change because of what my future is going to hold for next year. My goal is to win races and try and get this car back up top in points; take care of my sponsor, Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, because these are people that supported me. I love the four years I've been at Joe Gibbs Racing. There's a lot of great people that work there and I'm definitely happy for the opportunities I've been given."

WHEN AND HOW WERE YOU NOTIFIED ABOUT THIS? "I've had a couple discussion with J.D. (Gibbs) and I'm at the end of my contract here so it's not a matter of being replaced or being fired, it's just a matter of we've been in negotiations trying to figure out what it's going to take to make this team run better. Obviously there are some drivers out there that have become available that have shaken up NASCAR. If it was Dale Jr. to Kyle Busch and so on and so forth, I'm sure it's not going to stop now. So it's been a couple weeks and it's just gotten to the point where the timetables needed to be set. I think they're getting closer to what they're going to do. That said I don't have anything but I'm sure we'll announce something here shortly."

THERE WERE TIMES WHEN YOU WERE ON THE VERGE OF BEING MORE SUCCESSFUL. WAS THAT FRUSTRATING WHEN IT DIDN'T HAPPEN? "It's definitely frustrating. You look at the three teams of Joe Gibbs Racing. I guess you could call it bad luck but we've always seemed to have the little problems that cost us. We were leading at Bristol and had an exhaust come apart on us. We've had some mechanical failures that the other two teams haven't and it's hard to say exactly why that is but we've had some bad luck that has caused us to fall a little bit in points but like I said, we've been missing something very minute and this is by far the toughest series in the world. One little thing means a tenth, a tenth means ten positions on the race track. So you have to find that perfect chemistry. Some of the teams have made huge changes during the year to find that chemistry. We may have just taken too slow of an approach to find it."

ARE YOU HEADING TO THE WOOD BROTHERS? "I've talked to a lot of different teams and they're one of the teams I've spoken with except I have nothing signed with anybody. I still have a couple teams I have left to talk to so we're just going through the process of trying to weed out what's going to be the best situation for me long term."

WHAT'S THE TIMETABLE? "Right now there's no timetable. Obviously as long as I have something before we go to Daytona testing."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO DEI? "We've had some discussions with them and like I said, we've had some discussions with several of the teams."

WHAT HAS JOE GIBBS RACING DONE FOR YOUR CAREER? "They have definitely given me a shot. In 2003 I was a sprint car driver racing Saturday nights and living a dream. I know because of Tony Stewart I got a lot more of a boost to come to Joe Gibbs Racing. I followed the same footsteps that he took to get here. To be given the opportunities that I've been given, I can't complain about anything. I love the relationship I've built with everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. I have a lot of friends here and it's going to be difficult to leave to go somewhere else but this is still a business. You have to think what's going to be best for the team and myself and we're working that way."

HOW WILL KYLE BUSCH FIT IN WITH TONY STEWART AND DENNY HAMLIN? "I don't know. He hasn't been announced to be the driver yet so we'll just have to wait and see."

HOW WOULD HE FIT IN IF HE WERE COMING HERE? "I don't know. That's difficult to say. He might fit in great, he might not. That's for someone else to figure out and not me since I won't be here anymore."

WHY IS MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY SO COMPETITIVE? "To me, it's because Michigan is so wide, it's got more banking than California (Speedway); it's just a racier track. The groove is five grooves wide; when you go to California you'll always see that. There's still enough bumps in the race track to give it enough character that some drivers prefer the bottom and some guys prefer the top and having that variety makes for good racing."

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN WHATEVER OWNER YOU GO TO NEXT? "Obviously any driver wants a team to be built around them. The teams I've talked to want to do that. To me, something that's very important is that they're a racer. I'm a racer, that's how I came up and I expect that the people that are going to be running the organization come of that same mind frame. It's still a business, yes, but they have business people hired to take care of that stuff. But they're focused on the race cars and what's it going to take to win races."

SO YOU WANT A HANDS-ON OWNER? "I think that would be a better fit. That fits more my personality than an owner that isn't hands on, absolutely."

IS THERE A CHANCE THAT YOU WON'T FINISH THE SEASON THIS YEAR WITH THIS TEAM? "No. We had a meeting with J.D. and Joe Gibbs Racing and nothing has changed for this year. My goal and my plans as well as JGR's is for me to fill out the rest of the year in the Interstate Batteries Chevrolet. Like I said, try to get the best finish we can in points. We're still back a little bit but I think it's realistic when you get back to top-15 pretty easy and try to win some races. Just because I'm going somewhere. these guys have worked their butts off for me and I would love nothing more than to give these guys a victory."

DOES THE MANUFACTURER MATTER AT ALL? "No, it doesn't matter. Just as long as they have a competitive team and they want to go win races."

IS IT BETTER TO PROVE SOMETHING ON THE WAY OUT? "Not really. I give 100 percent no matter what I'm doing. It's not going to change the fact that I'm leaving at the end of the year because if that was the talk three months ago that I was racing for my job and I went out and did my job and won races and ran up front, I was going to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing. You can only give 100 percent and I give it every time I get behind the car. If it's a chemistry thing or whatever it's taken for us to get better, we haven't been able to find it. I guess I'm a little sad that I wasn't given the changes that might have made the difference but I can't change the past and I'll just look forward to the future."

WHAT KIND OF CHANGES? "I never asked for a crew chief change, I've never asked for crew changes. Sometimes those changes are necessary. You look at the past with different teams - I think Jamie McMurray went through three or four last year. It's not because these crew chiefs are not qualified or they're not good crew chiefs. It comes down to finding the right personality to the fit of my driving style. We could unload one week and be fantastic. Some weeks we unload and we struggle. Sometimes because it's so tough, you can't make up enough. If you unload bad, you just don't make up enough to be competitive and that has been the burden for me this year - we've been too inconsistent."

DO YOU THINK THERE NEEDED TO BE CHANGES? "I think there was a point where we needed to try something, sure."

-credit: grm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , J.J. Yeley , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing