J.J. Yeley Finds Hard Times in NASCAR

Bill BosticContributor IAugust 17, 2008

For every Jeff Gordon there is a Scott Pruett. For every Kasey Kahne there is a Dario Franchitti. And it's looking like we can soon say that for every Tony Stewart there is a J.J. Yeley.

It was only a few years ago that Yeley was looked upon as the future of Joe Gibbs Racing. The former USAC Triple Crown champion had solid ride with one of the top NASCAR teams in place, only to watch newer drivers like Denny Hamlin and Joey Lagano push him to the side.

After moving to the Cup series with the No. 18 Interstate Batteries team in 2006, Yeley only managed to score six top 10 finishes and a lone top five finish that would come at the fuel-strategy marred 2007 Coke 600. (I mean, if Kyle Petty can make a top five finish out of it, anything can happen.)

Now, after spending half of the season with Gibbs affiliated Hall of Fame Racing, Yeley has failed to qualify for multiple events and has seen the team drop below the dreaded top 35 line. This after the HOF team was able to successfully stay in the top 35 for two years with journeyman Tony Raines at the wheel.

It must be tough enough to know that as a driver you were not able to meet the standard set by Tony Raines. But how does it feel to watch young gun Kyle Busch take over the No. 18 team and score more wins in half a season than the number of top 10s you collected in two years?

Yeley has a lot going for him. Sponsors love him for his good looks and friendly personality. But will Yeley be able to overcome the psychological damage caused by lackluster results over the past few years? More importantly, will he even get the chance?