Saturday, October 22, 2022

XFINITY: J.J. Yeley shows speed at Homestead before wreck results in Ford’s 1,000th NASCAR last-place finish

PHOTO: Jared Haas at Frontstretch, @RealJaredHaas

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

J.J. Yeley picked up the 13th last-place finish of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career in Saturday’s Contender Boats 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when his #66 Workpro Breast Cancer Awareness Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 3 of 200 laps.

The finish, which came in Yeley’s 379th series start, was his first of the season and first in a XFINITY race since October 16, 2021 at Texas, 35 races ago. In the XFINITY Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 14th for the #66, the 161st for Ford, and the 373rd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 84th for the #66, the 1,000th for Ford, and the 1,312th from a crash.

Yeley has remained as busy as ever in 2022, splitting time between the Cup Series and XFINITY Series for both Rick Ware Racing and Carl Long’s program, Motorsports Business Management. In a year that saw both MBM’s cars shut out of the Daytona 500 field – Yeley coming just one last-lap pass from his first 500 start since 2015 – the team has since focused almost entirely on their two-car XFINITY program. While MBM’s #13 team scaled back to part-time, Yeley’s offseason funding for the #66 has been instrumental in keeping that car full-time.

This year, Yeley has most often finished under power and earned several solid finishes. He began the season with a 13th in the Daytona opener, then an 11th in Atlanta, a season-best 8th on the rainy road course in Portland, then a 9th in the August Daytona race. When MBM loaned their NextGen car to Penske Racing after Austin Cindric’s Daytona 500 winner was preserved in the Daytona 500 Experience, the crew got one of Penske’s XFINITY cars for Yeley to run in Texas. There, Yeley qualified 14th and was running among the leaders when he was caught in a pileup not of his making, leaving him a disappointing 31st. GMS Racing has since put a new nose on the Penske car, but it hasn’t been as fast since the wreck.

This was likely the same Ford that Yeley ran at Homestead, where he did show speed early. In a practice session cut short by rain, he ran 15th of the 40 entrants and third-best of the Fords behind Ryan Sieg and Riley Herbst. He improved further in qualifying, running the fastest of all the Fords with a speed of 163.865mph (32.954 seconds). Missing the show were Alex Labbe in the #92 Prolon Controls / Alloy Employer Services Chevrolet and Dillon Bassett in the returning #77 Jerry Hunt Supercenter Chevrolet.

Securing the 38th and final starting spot was C.J. McLaughlin, whose #38 Sci Aps Ford made the field despite running a slower qualifying lap than both DNQs. McLaughlin’s full-time RSS Racing entry made the show ahead of both part-timers that were sent home. No drivers were sent to the back for the start, and McLaughlin remained in the final row for the start next to Julia Landauer in Alpha Prime Racing’s #44 Atem Car Club Chevrolet. “Have fun, race the track,” said McLaughlin’s crew. “We’ll pass a lot of people.”

When the race started, McLaughlin indeed began to climb, and by the end of Lap 1 dropped Landauer to last, 4.675 seconds back of the lead and 0.240 back of new 37th-place runner Patrick Emerling in the #35 Toyota. Landauer said her car jumped out of gear at the start, but quickly climbed out of last place when Kris Wright’s #68 iHeart Radio Chevrolet bounced off the outside wall and made an unscheduled stop on Lap 2. While NASCAR mistakenly reported Wright went behind the wall under the DVP, the #68 returned to the track one lap down on Lap 3, taking over the last spot from Landauer. The next time by saw the battle abruptly end.

Coming off Turn 2 on Lap 4, Yeley was locked in a four-wide battle with Stefan Parsons’ #45 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet to his inside, Jeb Burton’s #27 Larry’s Lemonade Beach Bash Chevrolet to his outside, and Riley Herbst’s #98 Monster Energy Ford even higher. Yeley slid up the track and made contact with the left-front of Burton’s car, steering Yeley into the outside wall and collecting Herbst. The caution fell as Yeley and Herbst made it to pit road along with David Starr, whose #08 Amptricity Ford was likewise put on the 10-minute “Crash Clock.” While Starr and Herbst returned, Yeley’s crew discovered the ball joint on the right-front was damaged, and he pulled behind the wall, done for the day.

Taking the 37th spot was Mason Massey, whose #91 Anderson Power Services Chevrolet twice bounced off the outside wall. On Lap 65, Massey pulled behind the wall with a blown engine, though with some difficulty as he briefly blocked the garage entrance. B.J. McLeod had an electrical issue on his #78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet, ending his run early in Stage 3. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Kyle Sieg in the #28 Ford and Stefan Parsons in the #45 Clear Cryptos Chevrolet, who tangled entering Turn 1. Parsons was running 12th, one lap down, at the time of the incident.

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Parsons was among a few drivers who turned in strong runs. Kyle Weatherman turned in another fantastic qualifying effort for Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, taking 8th on the grid and climbing as high as 5th in the #34 SELE Foundation Chevrolet, eventually taking 20th. Parker Retzlaff returned to form in his third start for Our Motorsports, taking 16th in the #02 Funkaway Chevrolet. And most impressively, JD Motorsports teammates Bayley Currey and Brennan Poole finished 13th and 14th with Currey’s #4 KSDT CPA Chevrolet ahead of Poole’s #6 Macc Door Systems Chevrolet, the last two cars on the lead lap.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #66 in a XFINITY Series race at Homestead since June 14, 2020, when Stephen Leicht fell out with handling issues after 9 laps.

38) #66-J.J. Yeley / 3 laps / crash
37) #91-Mason Massey / 62 laps / engine
36) #78-B.J. McLeod / 115 laps / electrical
35) #28-Kyle Sieg / 183 laps / crash
34) #45-Stefan Parsons / 189 laps / crash

1st) Alpha Prime Racing (4)
2nd) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, JR Motorsports, Motorsports Business Management (3)
3rd) JD Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Our Motorsports, Sam Hunt Racing (2)
4th) Big Machine Racing, Brandonbilt Motorsports, DGM Racing, Jesse Iwuji Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, Richard Childress Racing, RSS Racing, SS-Green Light Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (22)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (4)


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