JJ “If There’s A Wall, I’ll Find It” Yeley
2006 Ride: No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Joe Gibbs
2006 Crew Chief: Steve Addington
2006 Stats: 36 races, zero wins, zero top fives, three top 10s, 29th in points.
High Point: It took just two races of 2006 before Yeley registered his first top-10 finish, coming home eighth at California Speedway in February. Unfortunately for Yeley, winter would turn to spring, then summer, then fall before he was able to finish that high again, coming home eighth after a strong performance at New Hampshire in September.
Low Point: In a season of struggles, Yeley finished 41st twice during 2006. Once was at Daytona during the Daytona 500, and the other was a DNF at Kansas Speedway in the Banquet 400. The Kansas DNF began a streak of three straight races where Yeley finished his day in the garage after a wreck, tearing up cars at Talladega and Charlotte over the next two weeks. That was typical of Yeley’s year; the rookie had six DNFs for crashes during the season, far more than any of his fellow first-year contemporaries.
Summary: Week after week, Yeley seemed to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, mounting up those aforementioned DNFs while failing to finish on the lead lap in 22 of 36 races (61%); many of those poor finishes were due to spins and on-track altercations. Yeley did, however, show that when he stays out of trouble, he knows what he’s doing on the track; 16 top-20 finishes were proof of that.
2007 Outlook: Though his 2006 season was nothing to write home about, Yeley should have an easy time improving in the coming year. Signed with Joe Gibbs Racing once again to drive the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevy, the young driver had the help of Steve Addington as crew chief and teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, no slouches when it comes to driving these racecars. With an experienced team and the confidence of his car owner, this young driver can only improve after a rough beginning to his Nextel Cup career.