|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish was Yeley’s first of the 2014 season and his first in a Cup Series race since last fall at Charlotte, 31 races ago. The #93 BK Racing team now has sole possession of the lead in the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Owner’s Championship, having earned three last-place runs with three different drivers (the other two being Mike Bliss at New Hampshire and Johnny Sauter at Pocono).
Last year, the journeyman Yeley was driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, taking over for Dave Blaney in the #36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. The season began on a high note with a 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500 - his first top-ten finish in nearly five years. However, after only one other finish better than 24th and two last-place runs, Yeley was released at season’s end.
This year, Yeley found his way to the Xxxtreme Motorsports, a single-car operation that made its first Cup start at Phoenix in late 2012 with David Reutimann behind the wheel, then ran six more races with Scott Riggs in 2013. Like many other start-up teams, Cohen’s distinctive-looking #44 No Label Watches Fords left the track early in each of those seven starts with no finishes outside the Bottom Five, including three last-place runs.
For 2014, the team looked to run longer distances, and in more races. To that end, Yeley was hired and the team switched to Chevrolet. Their first attempt of the season came at Las Vegas, where Yeley made his first of 22 Nationwide Series starts for JGL Racing. Though he finished 21st in Nationwide, in Cup, Yeley wound up the slowest of five DNQs. Xxxtreme withdrew from Bristol, then headed to Texas, where they were again the slowest of the four who didn’t make the show. After withdrawing from the next race at Darlington, the team again looked to reorganize when they were awarded a new opportunity.
Swan Racing’s two-car operation closed its doors after the race at Darlington. In the aftermath, rookie teammates Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman were sent in different directions. Whitt and Swan’s #26 became a third team out of the BK Racing stables. Kligerman lost his ride with the #30, and Xxxtreme bought up the owner points to lock their team into its first race of the season at Richmond. Running the #30 for that night only, Yeley ran all but 20 of the night’s 400 laps before an engine failure left him 40th.
Over the next ten races after switching the car number back to #44, Yeley and Xxxtreme continued to struggle for consistency. Two more engine failures at Kansas and Dover left him 41st and 39th, respectively, and in between came two more DNQs at Talladega and Charlotte. Two races later at Pocono, Yeley gave the team its first finish under power, coming home 38th. He continued to improve for the next two races, coming home 36th at Michigan and 34th at Sonoma. But after back-to-back withdrawals from Kentucky and Loudon, Xxxtreme suspended operations once more to move into a new shop.
Yeley’s next race came last month at Michigan, when he drove the #83 Burger King Toyota in relief of Ryan Truex, injured in hard practice crash. Yeley came home 30th that day - a season-best - and after two races in FAS Lane Racing’s #32 Ford, he was invited back by BK Racing to drive the team’s “start-and-park” #93 at Richmond. In three previous starts, the #93 had been one of BK Racing driver Alex Bowman’s backup #23 cars sponsored by Dr. Pepper. For Richmond, the car was black with Burger King graphics, indicating it was likely one of Ryan Truex’s backup #83 cars instead.
44 cars showed up to try and make the field for Saturday’s race. In Friday’s opening practice, Yeley timed in 42nd, then ended up the slowest of the field in Happy Hour. This put Yeley in danger of missing the show to Clay Rogers, a 33-year-old short tracker that was looking to make his Sprint Cup debut. Rogers drove the #75 Beard Oil Chevrolet, which was fielded by longtime Nationwide Series owner Mark Beard. After withdrawing from July’s race at New Hampshire, Rogers put up surprising numbers, jumping from 43rd in the first practice to 39th in Happy Hour.
However, in qualifying, Rogers remained 39th, just three spots away from making the field. Yeley was thus able to fall back on Owner’s Points and score the 38th spot with an average speed of 123.164 mph.
Ryan Truex started last in Saturday’s race, but after just one lap, he was passed by the trio of Yeley, Joe Nemechek in the #66 Friedman Law Firm Toyota, and Mike Bliss in the #37 Accell Construction Chevrolet. Nemechek took 43rd on Lap 2, fell a half-second behind the field, and was the first car to be lapped on Lap 20. Nemechek and Yeley traded the spot briefly with the former retaking it on Lap 23, then the latter on Lap 31. At that point, Yeley had pulled behind the wall.
Despite stifling temperatures and long green-flag runs, Yeley was the night’s only retiree. This left open the possibility that Chase contenders could plummet as far as 42nd in the final running order. The only one to fall was Matt Kenseth, whose #20 Dollar General Toyota made contact with the outside wall around Lap 123. Damage to the right-front suspension cost him 67 laps, leaving him 42nd for much of the night. He gained only one spot by the checkered flag, passing Ryan Truex’s ill-handling car with just 84 laps left. Nemechek, just 12 laps in arrears, came home 40th with Travis Kvapil, nine laps down, rounding out the Bottom Five.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #93 in a Cup race at Richmond since May 15, 1966, when Bill Seifert’s 1964 Ford lost oil pressure after 1 lap of the Richmond 250.
*This was Yeley’s first last-place finish in a Cup race at Richmond since April 30, 2011, when his #46 Red Line Oil Chevrolet had electrical problems after he completed 38 laps of the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #93-J.J. Yeley / 31 laps / brakes
42) #83-Ryan Truex / 313 laps / running
41) #20-Matt Kenseth / 330 laps / running
40) #66-Joe Nemechek / 388 laps / running
39) #32-Travis Kvapil / 391 laps / running
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Dave Blaney (3)
2nd) Mike Bliss (2)
3rd) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #93-BK Racing (3)
2nd) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (10)
2nd) Chevrolet (9)
3rd) Ford (7)