The Frontstretch: In Less Than a Year, An Overrated Driver is Found Out by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday August 7, 2008

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In Less Than a Year, An Overrated Driver is Found Out

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday August 7, 2008


Once in awhile, something happens in the world of NASCAR that affords me the opportunity to be one of those annoying guys that no one wants to share a beverage with. You know the kind – the guy who says “Ha Ha! Told you so!” I try not to be that guy too often — even though I am mostly right about most things — because let’s face it, I like people to share their beverages with me! However, since I recently discovered the petty cash box here at’s Iowa office and took a crowbar to it, I have bought my own box of beverages, and can now sit here and say…

“Ha Ha! Told you so!”

I speak of none other than the satisfying news that J. J. Yeley has been released by Hall of Fame Racing effective immediately! Oh, what a difference a year (almost) makes, eh J.J.?

Try not to get too turned off by my snooticism as you read this, because I’m not really saying “I told ya so” to all the people who actually heard me say Yeley was overrated; I’m directing it more towards HoF Racing!

Just 21 races into the season, J.J. Yeley is without a Cup Series ride after being fired from the Hall of Fame Racing No. 96 car on Wednesday.

Turns out that Tony Raines, whom Yeley replaced in the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota at the beginning of this year, should have never been let go. No, Raines’ record was not stellar for the two full years that he drove for HoF… but he was improving. So much so that by the time Yeley made the “agonizing” decision to “leave” JGR to oust Raines at HoF’s request, Raines had successfully kept the No. 96 in the coveted Top 35 throughout his tenure. To fully understand how “agonizingly” full of horse hockey Yeley is, lets step back a few months.

“When you leave an organization like Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the top teams in NASCAR, you want to try to make the right step to be more successful,” said Yeley back in September of 2007. “I’ve never had to make a decision this difficult in my life, but I’m confident that Hall of Fame Racing will be competitive week-in and week out and build the future team around me as their driver. The affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the great people in Phoenix was just an added bonus that makes it the perfect fit for me. The benefit of this team is that there’s already a great history and foundation in place with equipment from Joe Gibbs Racing, which is equal to the best equipment in the sport. All those things added up to make me feel that Hall of Fame Racing and DLP will be the best fit for me.”

Are you kidding me? OK, I’m not a race car driver, but even I know that “leaving” JGR for HoF in an effort “to be more successful” is NASCAR driver code for: “I really need a job, please hire me, I’ll do anything if you let me drive.” Seems to me it was more like JGR saying, “Here is some equipment and oh, by the way, it comes with a driver too!’”

Whatever the case, I am glad Yeley is gone. I don’t have anything personal against the guy, it’s just that I hated to see a man who is just as talented — if not more — get the shaft. Now its Yeley’s turn to get the shaft and when you think about it, the shaft he’s getting is even stiffer than the one given to Raines. Yeley’s contract with HoF was to run through 2010 and he is out now. At least Raines got to finish out two full seasons with HoF …. that ought to tell you something.

Now, having said all that, there is one more assertion that I will make concerning HoF. You people are idiots for not inviting Tony Raines back. Brad Coleman, who will be replacing Yeley for the remainder of this year, may very well be a talented driver — but he is not quite ready for primetime! Not if you want the car to be back in the Top 35.

Oh, did I fail to mention the fact that during Yeley’s tenure in the No. 96, he promptly drove it out of the Top 35? Not bad for HoF’s new “superstar!”

Ha Ha! Told ya so!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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Karen S
08/07/2008 03:59 AM

How old are you? I told you so? Grow up.

08/07/2008 06:53 AM

JJ overrated? Who has overrated him, just because he replaced Raines you call him overrated? JJ didn’t have choice leaving JGR, he got ousted for KYB. Maybe if JJ were given equipment equal to other drivers he might be able to preform a little better. Did you forget when he replaced Stewart and kept the car in the top ten until he was taken out by another driver? I think you unfairly judged JJ. Stewart was the one who requested that JJ take over for him in that race, that should tell you something, I believe Stewart is a better judge of a driver than a reporter. How sad to laugh at some one losing a job in today’s enconomy, and JJ has a family to support.

08/07/2008 08:10 AM

J.J.Yeley has as much business in a cup car as a hog has in a church pew !

Daniel L
08/07/2008 08:19 AM

And all along I thought you were a impartial journalist, Come to find out you are just a bandwagoner like the rest of the hacks. Sure Tony deserved better but so did JJ, get your “facts” together like a real journalist does before you put pen to paper.

08/07/2008 08:33 AM

I don’t wish bad on any person but I did think JJ was overrated myself. Lookit, Kyle Busch got into a team that was down and out for 2 years. JJ was the driver. Now Busch in the same team as JJ had with the same crew chief and the same owners and the same tires and bodies and roll bars and suspension — well you get the picture — goes out and wins 7 Cup races in 6 months. Now you tell me where JJ is all that talented? And while the writer of this blog is a bit arrogant about JJ losing his job, I am with him on his point. They butted Raines out and got a driver half Raines’ caliber. And now HoF racing got what they paid for. It shouldn’t go unnoticed guys and gals that Raines got the HoF racing ride in the first place by driving an underfunded car a few years ago and doing it well. That’s what gets folks’ attention in this business. My guess is that sponsors saw, and maybe a better economic mess was the real reason at JGR, that JJ was younger. Sponsors have way too sway on the things that matter in the cockpit these days. For example, they want to take a young 21-year old and “build a program around that driver.” BS! In the first place not too many 21-year olds are up to the challenge. Not a slight but this sport eats drivers. The second point is that sponsors aren’t always around to honor what they started—especially in this economy. The bottom line—pun intended? HoF racing would be way way better off if they had kept Tony Raines. And Coleman? Geezuz, they will have the same results. He will go down in flames at HoF and his career will be ruined by working with what now amounts to losers. HoF as a single team never had a chance—even with JGR association. But they would have had a much better standing had they stayed true to the driver they started with.

08/07/2008 09:08 AM

I love this article…
JJ Yeley drove a car and did nothing that is now dominating the series…

He then inherited a top 35 car that..TONY RAINES of all people was able to keep secure and drove it into oblivion…

At the Prelude to the Dream this year..JJ “im an awesome dirt racer” managed to SPIN HIMSELF OUT 3 TIMES in one freakin heat race…

He’s awful, awful, awful..

And remember, after Tony Stewart won all those USAC titles they renamed the series to USUC and that’s how JJ Yeley won those titles..

Lyle Hensley
08/07/2008 09:09 AM

Add Michael Waltrip to overrated drivers.Lucky only maybe. I would be afraid to be on the same road he might be driving on.

Karen S
08/07/2008 09:11 AM

George, Lets not forget that Bobby Labonte finished 24th in points the year before JJ took over that car.

Last year, in the COT races, JJ was doing fine. It was broken parts that hurt him. A broken Shock mount, an exhaust header, a blown Engine. You have to concider all the facts.
This year and the previous two years, JJ has had terrible racing luck. Even his ole 18 teammate said so the other night. This year Sam Hornish punted him, Dave Blaney and there was another.
It sucks for JJ, I think he can be a great driver just like Tony Stewart said. I think he proved that when he drove the 20 car.
I really hope he gets a chance to prove it with owners that understand racing and racers.

Travis Rassat
08/07/2008 09:37 AM

I was wrong.

I had watched J.J. win a couple of USAC races and take the USAC Triple Crown. When I heard he was coming to Cup, I figured he was gonna light the place up, take rookie of the year, and eventually move on to contend for championships.

I was wrong.

Nonetheless, I would love to see him return to open wheel – perhaps an IndyCar ride is in his future?

Rusty Shackelford
08/07/2008 10:26 AM

The tone of this article is a bit immature. Future evidence that the internet will probably destroy intelligent life as we know it.

Yeley is not exactly a top notch stock car talent, but you can’t place all the blame on his shoulders for that team’s performance this year. While Gibbs benefited from the switch to Toyota, it seems that HOF took a step backward. I was surprised last year when HOF booted Raines in favor of Yeley. Yeley is a talented racer but I don’t think he ever really “figured out” the whole stock car thing. He ran well in the Busch series, but still never managed to record a win in the lower division. I have to imagine he’d be a consideration for a good ride in the recently unified IndyCar series.

HOF needs to hire an experienced driver for that car. Coleman is a good band aid for the rest of the season, but he’s not ready for Cup. Then again, that’s what they said about Denny Hamlin in 2005…..

While I don’t think that somebody like Ryan Newman would sign with HOF, you have to think that guys like Raines, Sauter, Riggs are all contenders to take over that car. The questions is, will they want to?

The Old Guy
08/07/2008 10:36 AM


I thought this would be an article about Dale Jr.

08/07/2008 11:20 AM

OLD GUY”, that was a nasty thing to say!!!!!!

08/07/2008 11:38 AM

HOF Racing was formed as a joint venture by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman to break into Nascar racing.

Even with some JGR support, they quickly found out that it would literally be years before they were competitive.

Such is the way and the life of start-up teams.

Anybody with half a Nascar brain knows that a new team is going to take years to jell.

Once Staubach observed the $$ bleeding with little return, he bailed out. I think Aikman did to, but I am not sure on that.

Staubach is a very smart man and a multi-millionaire made after his QB days with Dallas.

He made it in real estate.

But once again a smart and rich man was parlayed into being a fool meddling with Nascar.

You would think they would learn by now.

So the firing of Raines, which was totally baseless, was another example of desparation at the weariness of being non-competitive and being involved with a money pit.

Yeley was no more going to turn HOF around than
putting Tony Romo in the car.

Be careful when you play with Nascar, you could get burned.

Ask Roger Dodger….

08/07/2008 11:41 AM

Maybe this is a start of good things to come. As the open wheel guys sink to the bottom of the points, maybe they will be moved out of their seats for more drivers that do not use the “too Heavy” excuse for their lack of talent. 77,42,40(R.I.P.), Villeneuve and others. Just because you can drive a spec F1 or IRl car doesn’t mean that you can drive everything!

josh c
08/07/2008 12:02 PM

Yeley definately overrated but not as much as Casey Mears, Jamie McMurry and Eliott Sadler. Those three below in the dead wood pile and don’t get me started on “restrictor plate” ringers like the JUST FOR MEN Mikey Waltrip and Sterling Marlin.

08/07/2008 12:56 PM

You are correct, IT,IS ANNOYING!

Hope that petty cash, wasn’t too petty, & you’ve got lots of brew!

Jeff Meyer
08/07/2008 02:40 PM

Daniel L wrote…
“And all along I thought you were a impartial journalist, Come to find out you are just a bandwagoner like the rest of the hacks. Sure Tony deserved better but so did JJ, get your “facts” together like a real journalist does before you put pen to paper.”

Sorry Daniel, I don’t work for CNN. I write COMMENTARY. My job is to give my OPINION on such matters as I see fit, which in turn gives you (and everyone else) the opportunity to voice YOURS!

Another job well done! Here, have a beverage! ;)

Derek M
08/07/2008 03:31 PM

Amen everybody! Especially Josh C… he hit the nail right on the head, except I’d toss Yeley in there with the other 3 to keep the fire burning, but then again I’m feeling more and more lately that the cup series is being diluted with weaker and weaker drivers coming into the sports with even weaker teams. Sad sad stuff.

scott b
08/07/2008 05:27 PM

JJ’s defenders are grasping at straws.

Exhibit A: The 18 was mediocre with JJ, and dominant ever since they rolled into Daytona practice with Shrub. This was not a gradual improvement, it was like someone flipped a light switch on.

Exhibit B: The 96 was in the top 35 before JJ (even in their expansion year), he let it slip out and put them far enough out that there is little hope of getting back this season. The primary sponsorship was the same from season to season, as is the relationship with Gibbs.

Exhibit C: After sliding out out the top 35 with the 96, JJ then missed multiple races due to poor qualifiying.

Exhibit D: JJ is a close friend of Smoke (fellow Hoosier with open wheel connections), he had a prior relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing, and was doing nothing the day he was asked to sub because he couldn’t get his regular ride in the show. That decision did not rest solely on who was the most talented driver, there are other factors to consider. Whatever the reasons for his being chosen as a relief driver, all he did was turn a few reasonably competitive laps in a car that was already well set up. Any number of drivers could has jumped in and done the same. He has demonstrated no aptitude for communicating with his crew chiefs to get a car dialed in on his own, and that is a huge part of his job.

Exhibit E: Simply having a top notch driver stepping up to support you does NOT mean you are a top notch driver yourself. I call this the Michael Waltrip theory.

JJ should be applauded, he has done exactly what his buddy Jeremy Mayfield (JM = Just Mediocre) has done several times …. Take a car OUT of the top 35. SLet’s see if he whines & blames the Equipment like Just Mediocre err I mean Jeremy Mayfield did !

08/07/2008 06:24 PM

Hey, Old Guy.

I thought exactly the same thing.

08/07/2008 07:57 PM

“Maybe this is a start of good things to come. As the open wheel guys sink to the bottom of the points…” “Just because you can drive a spec F1 or IRl car doesn’t mean that you can drive everything!”

Excuse Me! Open Wheel Champs…Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Robby Gordon, Juan Montoya, Ken Schrader, A.J Almendinger and Casey Mears have all “come over to NASCAR” successfully. Not to mention Sam Hornish, Scott Speed, J.J.Yeley, Carpentier and Franchetti. This is a very respectable list of veterens and winners. All of these drivers have a lot of talent…since, anyone who straps on a helmet in any professional series has the skills (or they don’t last)…so go pick on some other myth.

Now for my list of Stock Car Drives who have come over to open wheel on a regular basis…??


08/07/2008 09:52 PM

Whoa, people. Not all successful people are successful at everything they attempt. If JJ can’t drive, fine. Let him go back to open wheel. But he hasn’t gotten this much press since his birth notice in the newspaper.

08/07/2008 11:39 PM

Geez, it’s a good thing you “don’t have anything personal against the guy”! I have no idea what motivated you to write this, but you made yourself look pretty bad. You’ll feel like an ass soon, if you don’t already. Very disappointing article. No editor on duty?

Jeff Meyer
08/08/2008 01:11 AM

To jasmoran66:
It amazes me how some people will take one line out of an article and miss another, such as…
‘Try not to get too turned off by my snooticism as you read this, because I’m not really saying “I told ya so” to all the people who actually heard me say Yeley was overrated; I’m directing it more towards HoF Racing!’

Also, the way jj made it sound by his own quote a year ago…like it was his hard decision to leave JGR for HoF. The guy was fired, let go, sent packing..just like he has been now.

All points I thought I made clear….apparently not.

However, to put your mind at ease, its been over 24 hrs now since I wrote it and I am still feeling like my normal “I’m glad I’m me” self, and yes, the editors were on duty. Here, have a beverage too!


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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