Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
The Cockpit and Beyond · Becca Gladden · Friday June 30, 2006
It was almost 110 degrees outside, but nothing short of a natural disaster could have kept hundreds of devoted desert dwellers away from Phoenix International Raceway last week and an opportunity to meet two of NASCAR’s most popular young drivers.
Third year NEXTEL Cup driver Kasey Kahne and rookie J.J. Yeley manned the windows at PIR’s main ticket office in Avondale for two hours on June 22nd, delivering a sweet midsummer’s treat to a crowd of enthusiastic fans who had begun lining up hours ahead of the noon starting time.
In particular, Yeley was a polished sales person and crowd pleaser, congenially welcoming fans to the booth, suggesting seat locations, signing autographs, posing for photos, and even chatting with one woman’s disbelieving spouse on her cell phone.
Frontstretch’s own Becca Gladden had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Yeley after his hectic shift at the ticket counter. Among the topics discussed were J.J.’s take on growing up in Phoenix, the goals of his rookie season in the Nextel Cup series, and his recent visit to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Becca Gladden, FS: J.J., how did you get chosen to participate in today’s ticket sales event at PIR?
J.J. Yeley: I’m from Phoenix, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. “Hometown boy makes it to the big scene” is always a good story. It’s nice to come back here to PIR. When I was a little kid, I used to play in the infield at the racetrack while my dad was racing here, and a lot of my time racing was spent here.
Gladden: You have a lot of good memories of PIR. Were you born in Phoenix?
Yeley: I was born in Phoenix, but I don’t live here any more. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I lived in Phoenix until I was 21. I moved out to go racing professionally. It’s hard to do it as a profession here.
Gladden: You mentioned your dad. How instrumental was his background as a racecar driver in helping you get where you are today?
Yeley: It was tremendous. He taught me everything that I knew up until the point that I started racing professionally. He raced for 30 years, and was a multiple time champion in Arizona and other states. He taught me that nothing is ever handed to you. You have to work one hundred percent all the time, and in order to win, you’re going to have to give that extra effort. Because of that, it makes you strive to be a better person and a better racecar driver. I owe a lot to him, and now he gets to watch me on Sunday knowing that he pushed me hard enough to get to the top.
Gladden: Father’s Day was a couple of weeks ago, and I know you have a little girl. How old is she?
Yeley: She just turned one in the end of May. My wife actually surprised me and flew in to Michigan [where he was racing]. I thought they were still in Charlotte. I talked to Kristen in the morning, not knowing that she was already in the motor home waiting for me. After the driver’s meeting, I was going to call her before I got changed and they were already there.
Gladden: Did you get any cool gifts for Father’s Day, or was the trip itself your present?
Yeley: Well, the trip was, but I got a “Best Dad in the World” T-shirt and some cool stuff. I had a rough day at Michigan – I got taken out early, and it might have been a more disappointing day if they hadn’t been there. They definitely eased the pain of getting taken out.
Gladden: What about the Busch race in Kentucky? Have you gotten over that disappointment yet?
Yeley: I did until you just brought it back up (laughs).
Gladden: Sorry about that.
Yeley: It’s been that kind of season for me. When you’ve got that kind of lead, I was just counting the laps until the caution came out. I knew that I wasn’t going to be lucky enough for that race to go green all the way. It would’ve just been too easy to have a four-second lead with 20 laps to go and not get a caution.
Gladden: Did you and Clint Bowyer talk after the race?
Yeley: I did talk to him after the race, and he apologized for getting me loose there. With fresher tires, he was just a little bit faster than me. Unfortunately, I think it cost me the race, but at the same time you can’t take anything away from David Gilliland. They had an excellent racecar and he was very fast. He did everything he needed to do to win the race.
Gladden: But it must have given you and the team confidence knowing what a great car you had and how close you were to the win.
Yeley: Well, we already had the confidence with the way that car handled. It was definitely very disappointing. That’s not the first time I’ve been in that situation, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I would have definitely rather been in his position in Victory Lane spraying champagne and enjoying myself.
Gladden: Let’s talk a little bit about how you’re doing so far this year. At the start of the season, did you sit down and do some goal setting for your rookie year?
Yeley: Of course I did. You can’t succeed if you don’t have goals.
Gladden: What were your goals, and where do you stand on them now?
Yeley: Our main goal this year was to try to win Rookie of the Year, which to me, of all the goals was going to be the hardest one because of the rookie class being so talented. I’m not out of it by any means, but the way they do the rookie standings this year it’s your 17 top finishes, so we’ve got to get busy in terms of finishes.
Gladden: Rookie of the Year was your main goal?
Yeley: Trying to win Rookie of the Year and winning a race. If it’s Busch or Cup, it really doesn’t matter, but I want to win races. That’s why I’m here. There are some people who are here probably for different reasons. To me, the popularity of NASCAR and the money in NASCAR isn’t what is important. I want to win races. That’s all I’ve ever done. I could have continued racing sprint cars and open wheel cars and been the big fish in the little pond. But I want to explore racing against the best there is and see if my talents are capable of doing so.
Gladden: You had so much success at an early age that winning is something you were accustomed to – winning almost everything you entered.
Yeley: It makes it difficult. Obviously, you have to keep in mind that a lot of these guys have been doing this for a very long time, and the competition level is tremendous. But when you go from winning every week to having a shot at winning, it’s a huge difference. It’s easy for it to wear on your confidence, but I just have to keep things in check. I can only control things that I can do, so I just go out there and do the best I can and hopefully with a little bit of luck, we’ll see what happens.
Gladden: This is an interesting stretch in the schedule, going from a track like Michigan to a road course at Infineon, and then a plate race at Daytona. Do you find it exciting or stressful to face those different kinds of challenges every week?
Yeley: It’s exciting to know that we’ve been to Michigan, which is a very fun track, then to Sonoma where I’ve never been, and then to go back to Daytona. I think most of the drivers probably dread restrictor plate races the most, just because there are so many things you can’t control.
Gladden: You can easily get caught up in something there.
Yeley: Absolutely. But it’s part of the schedule. There are certain race tracks that I don’t like, but unfortunately for me, some of the race tracks that aren’t my favorites are fan favorites, and they’re not going to come off the schedule, so I better get used to them.
Gladden: When you go to a track that you haven’t been to before, or where you have limited experience, is there one driver in particular that you look to for advice?
Yeley: Obviously, having Tony Stewart as a teammate is the best thing in the world for me, because he’s a guy who came from open wheel cars just like me. He knows the feel and sensation that I am having, so he can best understand the feelings that I’m struggling with at a certain race track.
Gladden: Have you gone to him a lot for advice?
Yeley: I try not to bother Tony, because he’s got his own car that he’s focused on. I think the only place this year where I really struggled and I went to him after practice and said, “Hey, you need to tell me what I’m doing wrong because I have no clue,” was at Martinsville. It’s such an easy track to overdrive because you feel like you’re going so slow in a stock car there.
Gladden: What did Tony tell you?
Yeley: He told me that everything I was feeling, he was struggling with, too, so it wasn’t something that I was doing wrong as a driver. It was just something that as a team we needed to fix in our race cars.
Gladden: On a lighter note, when you do get back to Phoenix like this, do you have any favorite places that you like to visit?
Yeley: I visit all the Mexican food places (laughs).
Gladden: Do you have a favorite?
Yeley: There’s a good place that’s called Taste of Mexico that used to be by my house at 35th Avenue and Northern. I try to go there quite a bit.
Gladden: And you went to high school here?
Yeley: I did. I went to Apollo High School.
Gladden: Were you a good student? Did you have a favorite subject in school?
Yeley: (Laughs). Yeah, when the bell rang and we got to leave.
Gladden: I thought you might say something like that.
Yeley: I graduated high school in three years. I took correspondence courses to graduate early so I could go racing. My biggest problem was that they allowed you so many days that you could miss per semester, and I maxed them out every semester. It was always difficult traveling and keeping up with school.
Gladden: You’ve been racing for a long time now, so maybe you know how the green car superstition got started.
Yeley: I don’t know how it started. I don’t know why peanuts are bad luck either. I’ve eaten peanuts on race day and won before, so I don’t really believe in that superstition. Green isn’t an unlucky color. It’s the color of money, so I can’t think that green is so bad. Bobby Labonte won a championship and he’s won over 20 races with a green race car, and Dale Jarrett won the Daytona 500 in a green race car.
Gladden: Do you have any superstitions on race day?
Yeley: Not on race day. The only real superstition that I believe in, only because I’ve experienced it, is black cats. If a black cat crosses my path, I will turn around and go the other direction. I had the worst week in my life racing because of a black cat.
Gladden: I’ve also noticed on rain delays that you are one of the drivers really having a good time with the other guys. Do you enjoy that sort of down time around the track?
Yeley: You have to have fun with rain delays because they’re horrible. The majority of the guys would rather get the race over with and go home and see their families, but that’s not always the case. But I always enjoy having fun. If you stop having fun it becomes a job, and you spend too much time away from home and your family to make this a job. We try to keep it fun and keep it fresh every week. The greatest thing about NASCAR is that it is just one big family.
Gladden: I want to ask you about your recent visit to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It was your first time there, right?
Yeley: Yes, it was.
Gladden: Can you tell me about that experience and what it meant to you?
Yeley: It was an eye-opening experience for me. I knew about the hospital. I knew kind of what they did for children. But to go there and see how excited the kids get who are fighting an uphill battle – I met with a little fan whose grandfather had told me that I was a guy that his grandson liked to watch on TV. He’s 2-1/2 years old, and he’s been fighting for his life for the last two years with cancer. He’s had 20-some chemotherapies and several major surgeries. Unfortunately, he was sedated, but he opened his eyes and I got to see him, and to know that this kid is fighting for his life and so many other kids like him are doing that…St. Jude’s is making it possible for families to try to save their children.
Gladden: Over the years, they have really improved the survival rates of kids with those types of illnesses, haven’t they?
Yeley: Yes. It’s amazing. If I remember correctly, in 1962 when they opened, the likelihood of a child with leukemia surviving was 5%, and now it’s 90%. In 40 years, they have given so many children the opportunity to go on and live their lives. I hadn’t realized that there was no cost to the families and that St. Jude’s goes to such an extent to give them a place to stay while their children are fighting to survive.
J.J. Yeley is a second generation driver. He was behind the wheel of a quarter midget at the age of 10, later raced go karts, and at the age of 14 began racing midgets. Three years later, he was in a non-wing sprint car setting track records. One of the highlights of J.J.’s career was being the “youngest” driver at age 21 to qualify for the 1998 Indianapolis 500. He finished 9th in the 500, and went on to complete five Pep Boys Indy Racing League Events. In 2001, J.J. claimed the USAC Sprint Car Championship, finishing 3rd in the Midget standings and 4th in the Silver Crown. J.J. was the only driver to finish Top 5 in all three series. In 2003, J.J. set a new USAC record of 24 wins in a single season and broke A.J. Foyt’s USAC record of 19 wins, set in 1961. He is the second driver in history to win the “Triple Crown”, by winning all three USAC open wheel divisions in one season. (Source: www.JJYeley.com)
©2000 - 2008 Becca Gladden and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Excellent interview, Becca. Really shows a lot about a great guy.
Thank you, I appreciate it! Becca
Becca Gladden is no longer a contributor to the Frontstretch, but you can see all her past articles on herbiography and archive page.