Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that JJ Yeley will drive the ...
Joe Gibbs Racing announced today that JJ Yeley will drive the #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet in 2006. He will continue to run in the Busch Series in 2006 with JGR; the amount of races in the Busch Series will be between 22 to the full season. Attending today's press conference was JD Gibbs (President), Jimmy Makar (President of Racing Operations) and JJ Yeley (Driver).
JD GIBBS: We're excited. We obviously had a great relationship with Bobby Labonte for many years. We like doing things for a long, long time. That worked out. Obviously Bobby made his announcement for, as well as I could imagine, with a hard situation. For us to have JJ sitting here ready to go was obviously a big reason why we were able to make that decision with Bobby. JJ can go forward and win races and challenge for championships. We're excited about that. Jimmy is the technical one and he's been to a lot more testing than I have.
JIMMY MAKAR: Yeah, I'll tell you, we're really excited about JJ. We've got a lot going on at JGR right now and from a technical standpoint, it's been a pleasure to work with JJ and see him and his ability to work with the car and understand the car and converse with the crew chiefs and the guys that work on the car. I think that's a big plus for him-to be able to understand that and to be able to converse with his crew chief and let's everybody know what the car needs. His driving talents are excellent and those abilities are something that's going to make him stand out for others as well. We're really excited to move forward and long relationship with him. Like JD said, win some races and challenge for a championship.
JJ YELEY: I'm very excited to get the opportunity to drive the #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet out there. I've got some big shoes to fill out there with Bobby Labonte, past champion and a guy that's won 20 races. I'm just very proud to be a part of JGR. JD and Mr. Makar have given me an opportunity and obviously the equipment is there, Tony leading the points and Denny Hamlin doing very well here lately. So, I'm just very excited for the opportunity they've given me and proud that they have the confidence in me. I want to thank a lot of people-Vigaro and Home Depot have been with me in the Busch Series to get me to this point. My parents have obviously sacrificed a lot to get me to this point. There's a lot of people that have helped me get to this point and hopefully I can go out there for them and make them very proud.
WHAT SPECIAL CHALLENGES DOES IT BRING TO TAKE A YOUNG DRIVER WITH AN EXPERIENCED TEAM AND GET THEM ON THE SAME PAGE:
MAKAR: Well, first of all, I don't know necessarily, that I've got an inexperienced driver here. I think JJ's credentials show that he's been around racing all his life. He's been successful in many different kinds of race cars and that's key-it tells me he's going to be able to adapt to the Cup style car, just like he did with the Busch Series. I don't think it's going to be as much taking a young guy and molding him, I think it's going to be getting the chemistry working there with the crew chief and the guys on the team. JJ has already spent a lot of time around us and it's not like he's a new guy. So, I really don't see any big obstacles that we're going to have to overcome. Put everything together and get some time together to see how they are. I don't really foresee a big problem there.
It was a little bit more difficult than what I anticipated. The stock cars there is a slower, heavier vehicle than I'm used to racing. The racing I'm used to is a 30-50 lap race, so you have to just get it done as fast as you can. And patience plays a big part of stock car racing and that's probably been the biggest challenge for me, is waiting and knowing I can come in and make a pit stop and work on my race car. Now that I've had almost two years in the Busch Series, carrying that over to Cup, you have to take care of your equipment, work on it. The biggest thing is that in the Cup car you have maybe 10 chances to make a change, in the Busch Series maybe two or three times. So, having the confidence in the crew chief and the crew is going to be a big part. Next year is going to be a big time for JGR. You can a picture of JD right now-he's putting two rookies out there with me and Denny Hamlin, and then Tony out there to boot. Next year, you might look at him and he might have a little more gray hair.
GIBBS: For us, it is a big change. Really, if you look back at the sport the last four years, the whole sport has changed. We've grown so fast. The sport has grown so fast. The people we have working on the cars. The key for us is Jimmy and those crew chiefs, sitting together every week, kind of laying out a plan for the future. And I think that is a big part of the future, what you need. And we do have that currently. And I think I'm excited about growing, with some younger drivers, and for us, we wouldn't have made this change if we didn't have the faith in Denny and JJ. You have to match it up with good crew guys and crew chiefs, which I think we have. We have the best crew guys at JGR. I'm excited. We'll probably announce something soon (re: crew chiefs), what is going to happen. But yes, right now the plan is that we're not going to be changing much. We have some good guys working together.
RE: COMING INTO CUP, MORE POWER IN THE CARS
YELEY: The cars definitely have a lot more power and are more used to what I had in the Silver Crown series. But, you know, I'm glad I got to run two years in the Busch Series. Those cars, being underhorsepowered, you have to have momentum. You take those things and you apply them to the Cup car. It's going to help tremendously. Nothing against Tony in his first year, he was always fast, he just generally got into trouble. It wasn't a matter of him struggling. So, this year has been leaps and bounds better than what we had last year. The car has been better, all the changes that have made the team a lot better. Just having the confidence going into next year, we're looking forward to a lot of success.