2008 Ride: No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Toyota
2008 Primary Sponsor: Texas Instruments/DLP HDTV
2008 Owners: Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel
2008 Crew Chiefs: Brandon Thomas (Feb. – Mar.); Steve Boyer (Mar. – until JJ Yeley‘s release)
Stats: 21 races, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10, 0 poles, 41st in points
Best Finish: Third (Loudon – June)
High Point: Playing a chess game with Mother Nature, the No. 96 team chose to gamble on their gas mileage during the Lenox Tools Industrial 301. While I ran through the lightning, torrential downpours and high winds towards shelter, Yeley enjoyed a third-place finish in his otherwise dismal 2008 season.
Low Point: There really wasn’t much hoopla when the announcement was made in August that Yeley was out of the No. 96 DLP Toyota (replaced initially by Nationwide Series up-and-comer Brad Coleman). Perhaps that is the most disappointing part of JJ’s year – that nobody took much notice when he left.
Summary: Coming into 2008, the Hall of Fame Racing team talked the talk and smiled the smile. The one-horse stable kept up their spirits, connecting an offseason driver change with dreams of a better year and top-10 finishes. Besides, Yeley always looked good on camera with his sunny disposition and clean-cut, family man image. Unfortunately, a not-so-sunny reputation earned on the racetrack – far too many wrecks in years past, continued poor performance in the present – resulted in removal from his ride just before the Watkins Glen race in August.
Ironically, Yeley spent his season finishing the vast majority of the races he started this year, only falling out of the spring Texas race due to a wreck. However, nothing could hide the fact that the No. 96 failed to qualify in four races out of the 21 Yeley attempted, while starting eight others in 35th or worse. With an average finish of 29.9, the Hall of Fame team had little to cheer about, and Yeley provided them little to believe in for future performance.
However, blame should not entirely be leveled on Yeley’s shoulders. Life has never been sure in this one-car garage; just to survive this offseason, Hall of Fame needed to pair up with Ford powerhouse Yates Racing in a last-minute sponsorship deal involving Bobby Labonte. In the dog-eat-dog world of NASCAR these days, it’s tough to survive as a driver without equipment and the additional support of teammates around you both on and off the race track.
Team Ranking: First! Out of a single-car team.
Off-Track News: Yeley joined other Cup drivers at the golf course for the Big Shots: Titans at the Tee Tour 2008. Partnered with Carl Wolters in The Warriors, Yeley’s team finished third on the season, winning the Mark Twain Golf Club event on August 7th. The Big Shots Tour supports the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
2009 Outlook: Currently, Yeley has not signed with any new teams, at any level, in NASCAR.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C+
2007 Grade: C-
2008 Grade: D
Postscript: I have a racing axiom that I apply to Cup drivers… if your name has become a verb, it’s not a good indication for future success. In my household, we have adopted “he got Yeley’d” to indicate a driver who got dumped through poor driving. Like other drivers from the past like “The Bumpin’ Hump/Spinnin’ Spencer” and “It must have been a Bodine,” I have the distinct feeling that we have seen the last of Yeley in the Cup Series.