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Yeley showing signs of being a contender.

Yeley showing signs of being a contender.

Yeley showing signs of being a contender.
June 1, 2007

J.J. Yeley, the least known of the trio of Nextel Cup drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing, has been quietly building a strong season while teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin have struggled.

Since crashing on the first lap and finishing last at Texas Motor Speedway in April - one of the darkest moments of his two-year Cup career - the former U.S. Auto Club short track star has been rolling along.

Since that day in Fort Worth, Yeley hasn't finished worse than 21st and has moved up from 22nd to 15th in the Cup standings. He enters Sunday's race at Dover Downs International Speedway after a career-best second-place finish last Sunday in Charlotte.

Yeley got that finish with the help of a late-race fuel strategy, but he was particularly encouraged that he was in the top 15 at Lowe's Motor Speedway for all but two of the 400 laps in NASCAR's longest event.

``I think it would've been different if we had been a 20th-place car and won or ran second,'' Yeley said.

He's hopeful his No. 18 Chevrolet team has turned a corner.

``We haven't put ourselves in the right position in the last third of the race until now,'' Yeley said. ``We are trying as hard as we can, and we're getting closer and closer to where we have the right chemistry. We're running in the top 10 every week and starting to contend for wins.''

BE CAREFUL: There were a lot of surprised folks when Dale Earnhardt Inc. decided to withdraw its appeal to NASCAR after Dale Jr. was docked 100 points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100,000 and suspended six races.

The penalties came after NASCAR discovered illegal brackets on the rear wing of the No. 8 Chevrolet at Darlington Raceway. The appeal was based on DEI's contention that the penalties were too severe.

On his satellite radio show earlier this week, Junior explained why the team decided to drop it and ``just take our lickings.

``Well, sometimes you can go get your appeal and actually get a worse penalty,'' he said. ``There were some discussions about forcing the 8 car to have to qualify into every event, taking away our top 35 exempt deal, where we were automatically locked in the field.''

Earnhardt's 13th in the season standings, just 13 points behind Jamie McMurray in the battle for the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

TOUGH PLACE: Joe Nemechek could be excused if he shuddered every time somebody mentioned Dover Downs' Monster Mile.

The concrete one-mile oval has not been kind to the veteran.

``I've had some harrowing experiences at Dover, but I still love the track,'' said Nemechek, who drives for Ginn Racing.

The scariest incident at the Delaware track came in May 2001 when he was testing a Busch car. Nemechek cut a right front tire and crashed, sustaining fractures to his right shoulder blade, ribs and elbow. The injuries forced him to miss five Cup races.

He took another hard blow at Dover when he slammed into the wall in the 2003 fall race. Nemechek was not injured in the fiery accident, but the wreck put the race under caution for 27 laps while track workers repaired the crack in the wall.

A hit from behind in the 2004 spring race sent Nemechek spinning into the wall, causing race-ending damage to his car. In the fall race of the same year, a radiator problem eventually caused Nemechek's engine to expire.

There's more, including a pit-road incident with another car in the 2005 fall race, which spoiled a top 10 run. Last year wasn't any better, with finishes of 35th and 26th.

``I didn't know it was that bad,'' said Nemechek, when reminded of his troubles. ``The good news is that I am due to have that luck cycle turn in our favor.''

STAT OF THE WEEK: Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin enter the Dover race having been running at the end of 42 consecutive races. Next on the list is Kevin Harvick with 20 in a row. Kenseth and Hamlin are third and fourth in the standings, while Harvick is seventh.

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Re: Yeley showing signs of being a contender.

mvbski wrote:

Yeley showing signs of being a contender.

Amazingly Yeley sits in 15th place in the standings.  roll

43759 Posts
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Re: Yeley showing signs of being a contender.

As pressure mounts, Yeley keeps his cool

J.J. Yeley is a pretty cool customer for someone caught in the crosshairs.

There's talk Yeley might lose his job at Joe Gibbs Racing, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. could replace him in 2008.

Yeley, who joined Gibbs full time last year, isn't stressing, and the rumors haven't interfered with his performances on the track of late in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet.

Yeley finished second in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 27. He had a strong car at Dover on June 4 before a shock mount broke, and qualified 11th over the weekend at Pocono before finishing 17th.

"I don't feel any pressure, really, from outside," said Yeley, 30, when asked about his Nextel Cup status at last week's Nextel "Prelude to the Dream" dirt late-model race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. "I've got a great crew, all the equipment at my disposal. I put pressure on myself to win races. That's my job."

Yeley, a former open-wheel star who won the USAC "Triple Crown" (USAC Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget titles) in 2003 (Tony Stewart, his Gibbs teammate, did it in 1995), will be in action Sunday in the Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. He is 18th in Cup points, with Stewart sixth and Denny Hamlin, the third Gibbs' driver, third.

Yeley knows there will be more Earnhardt talk at MIS. But he won't let it upset him.

"I like Michigan, and I'm going to have some fun," said Yeley, who qualified 14th in last June's race. "It's obviously one of the faster tracks we go to and there are so many grooves to choose from. ... You can easily run four abreast through the corners and down the straightaways. If you look up race track in a dictionary, it should have a picture of Michigan."

Chevy's bigwigs will be at MIS as well as racing bosses from Ford and Dodge. Yeley wants to run well for his team and manufacturer.

"Obviously, you are in the automotive capital of the world and you want to do well," Yeley said. "We've run well at MIS in the past in the Busch and Cup car. Last year we had a pretty good run going and got taken out.

"We've had good cars. Our intermediate track cars, to me, are a little better than we had last season. Hopefully, that will make the difference between running 10th as opposed to having a shot to win the race."

Yeley hasn't set the world on fire since moving across to NASCAR in 2004 to run some Busch and Cup races for Gibbs. But he definitely has made improvements over last season, when he posted three top-10 Cup finishes.

Yeley might just have to win Sunday, or at least record a top-five finish, to keep his job at Gibbs. It appears more and more likely that Earnhardt will sign with Gibbs, which would leave Yeley out in the cold.

Yeley knows he's got a fight on his hands.

"The biggest thing we have to do is make certain we don't create more problems for ourselves," he said. "There's absolutely no reason why we can't be in the top 12 in points. We're going to run hard until the last event."

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