Yeley Wins SCRA Opener - Again PERRIS, CA, FEBRUARY 9, 2002 - J.J. Yeley conserved his tires until the end of the race and went on to win the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) season opener at the Perris Auto Speedway. Yeley's 25 lap win ...
Yeley Wins SCRA Opener - Again
PERRIS, CA, FEBRUARY 9, 2002 - J.J. Yeley conserved his tires until the end of the race and went on to win the Sprint Car Racing Association (SCRA) season opener at the Perris Auto Speedway. Yeley's 25 lap win marked the third time in his career that he has won the first SCRA race of the year (1997-'98-'02).
The victory had some historical significance since it was the first scheduled daytime race in club history. Yeley's no stranger to making history at Perris having won three of the first five SCRA events ever held at the track, including the inaugural race. Of those three wins, the last one came in May of 1996. Since then, Yeley has been held without a main event win at Perris.
"It's been a long time since I've won a race here and it's a lot of fun to come out here and run with SCRA," Yeley said after collecting his 17th career SCRA win. "I was in town for an Indy car thing at Fontana (California Speedway) and I was actually supposed to drive for Rickie Gaunt, but he had some motor problems and couldn't get the car ready in time. I called Jimmy Gardner, but he had a full slate. Lucky enough for me, Jimmy called Dwight Cheney and told him that I was available."
Cheney called Yeley and was rewarded with his first main event win. The win was especially satisfying for Chaney who was a driver with the SCRA until he elected to hang up his helmet in 1999 after a pair of wicked flips within a five day span (at Terre Haute and Knoxville).
Even though the Gardner Motorsports Team didn't have a ride for Yeley, their two drivers had a good showing. Troy Rutherford won the Sander Engineering Fast Time Award and Tony Elliott won the JE Pistons Dash to earn the pole for the main event. Elliott won the race to the bottom of turn one and led Charles Davis, Jr., Mike English, Yeley and Rutherford at the end of the opening lap.
Throughout the day, heavy winds and bright sunlight tortured the normally tacky Perris clay. The result was an inordinate amount of caution flags during the qualifying races leading up to the main event. Unfortunately, the main event provided more of the same. The first caution flag of the race was a red one after Michael Hinrichsen flipped exiting turn four on lap three. Danny Sheridan was unaware that the red light was on and took a nasty tumble along the back straight away after climbing another car's tire. Neither driver was hurt.
Elliott continued to lead after racing resumed as English pulled within striking distance of Davis for second place. English took his shot on lap seven and tried to beat Davis under braking as they approached turn three. Davis tried to hold his line, but contact with English sent him spinning hard into the wall.
English made a slight miscue on the restart, allowing Rutherford to move into the second spot. With a pair of Gardner Motorsports Sled's occupying the first two positions, Richard Griffin had the Ron Chaffin / Arizona Race Mart No. 50 Jon Boy up to sixth after starting 13th. As Rutherford began to close on his teammate, English saw his afternoon end after he clipped the turn two wall on the 16th circuit.
Two laps after the restart, Griffin drove around the outside of the Ferreira Dairy No. 87 Avenger driven by Tony Jones for fourth. After another caution period, Rutherford bicycled on the restart giving second to Yeley.
Since he hadn't abused his tires early in the race, Yeley knew he was going to be good for the final laps. Elliott, on the other hand, knew his tires weren't that good. Losing the lead to Yeley six laps from the finish, Elliott would eventually have to settle for a tenth place finish.
"I knew that tire management was going to be the big thing," Yeley later said. "We were really tight in the beginning and I was just trying to keep the car real straight. SCRA only allows you to run a certain type of tire and I knew it wasn't hard enough to last an entire race running hard. So, we just took it easy in the beginning and loosened the car up during the last couple of red flags and it definitely paid off at the end."
The last of those red flags came on lap 21 after Jeremy Sherman flipped after sliding wide and hitting the turn three wall. Sherman was not injured. From there, Yeley was able to keep his TCR Chassis ahead of Rutherford and Griffin giving the Billy & Anne Wilkerson / Paul & Helen Bagley sponsored car a popular victory.
Jones finished fourth ahead of the PACE Electonics No. 83 TCR driven by John Scott. Scott started 17th, but lost the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award to Damion Gardner who, in his SCRA debut, finished sixth after starting 19th. Mike Kirby had a noteworthy performance as well coming from 22nd to ninth.