Categories
XFINITY

LEE: Daytona Finish Shows Consistent Inconsistency

For the third time in as many restrictor plate races in 2016, the NASCAR Xfinity Series had a controversial finish in Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona.

After taking the white flag, Aric Almirola led the field down the backstretch for the last time when all hell broke loose. David Ragan, subbing for Matt Tifft in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was turned sideways after contact with Jeff Green as the pair raced for fifth in the outside line.

The contact forced Ragan into the outside wall and collected several other cars, including Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Ellis and J.J. Yeley. With chaos erupting behind the leaders, NASCAR chose to not throw the caution flag, giving way to what looked like would be another thrilling side-by-side finish at Daytona.

However, as Justin Allgaier and Almirola raced in a dead heat out of Turn 4, NASCAR elected to display the yellow, freezing the field less than a mile from the finish line. Replays shown by NBC Sports made it too close to call for some, but after several minutes of review, NASCAR declared Almirola the winner.

If this feels familiar, it should. At Talladega, NASCAR had a similar situation when Brennan Poole took the checkered flag first, but Elliott Sadler was correctly ruled the winner after replay showed him in first place as the yellow flag waved due to a crash in the tri-oval.

Friday night’s finish was yet another example of NASCAR making things much harder than they need to be, inexplicably complicating the finish of another superspeedway race. In fact, all NASCAR needed to do was throw the caution as soon Ragan was sideways in front of oncoming traffic and there would be no controversy, and Almirola would still be celebrating in victory lane without a senseless replay.

Instead, they seemingly chose to wait it out, to see exactly how the crash was going to unfold, and if no one was injured, allow the leaders to race back to the finish. That’s fine until the what-if moment happens, as was the case when Ellis radioed to his team that he needed some medical assistance.

At that moment, NASCAR had no choice but to throw the caution to get help sent to Ellis as soon as possible. The finish left fans, media and drivers confused as they all waited for NASCAR to declare a winner. Following the race, Ellis’ mother tweeted that he had been suffering from dehydration.

Friday’s race had it all: three-wide racing, crashes, fuel strategy and a number of underdog drivers and teams near the front of the field in the closing laps. But it also had more inconsistency from NASCAR, which might be the only thing that’s consistent at Daytona.

EMAIL HANK AT editors@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HankLee89

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Yeley Proving His Worth at TriStar Motorsports

LONG POND, Pa. – Mark Smith’s decision is paying off.

The XFINITY Series team owner at TriStar Motorsports made the call to replace the driver of the No. 44 Zachry Toyota, David Starr, with J.J. Yeley nearly two months ago. Yeley, who started the year in the No. 14, has driven the car in the last five events and the results have been immediate.

“It’s been going great since I made the adjustment and the switch to the 44 car. We should have run top 10 at Richmond in our first race. We’ve had really good runs,” Yeley told POPULAR SPEED. “Last week at Charlotte was my worst run, but we ran in the top 10 and had a spring failure where some spring rubbers broke. Also hit something and knocked the front grille opening out.

“So we had some things that caused the lack of speed at the end of the race that took away from our finish. The fact that we’ve been a top 15 team every time we’ve been in the racecar is great.”

When the announcement was made, Smith referenced the “commitment to our sponsor” regarding the need for an immediate change to improve the overall program. Not only has Zachry been thrilled with the improvement Yeley said, but everyone has been working has a cohesive unit.

“Team morale has gone way through the roof. The things that we’re doing have made our teammates better as well,” he said. “All in all, things are good at TriStar Motorsports right now. We know we need to make some more improvements but being a single-car team, not having a Cup affiliation, I think we’re holding our own pretty well.”

Sitting 17th in points, Yeley has earned three top-15 finishes in the last five races. Overall, he’s finished no worse than 23rd. Saturday, Yeley was credited with a 13th place finish in the rain-shortened Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway. It was another solid and consistent weekend for the team after they made it to the final round of qualifying and clocked in 11th fastest.

The performances have been par with where Yeley expected them to be when he joined the team. With the competition spread within the series and the gap between the top organizations and like those Tri-Star so wide, Yeley understands they are teams who are going to consistently outrun them and take away a good finish.

But, he said, “honestly we should run top 15 every week. We’re capable of doing that.”

As for his status as a driver, Yeley has found a place at TriStar and he’s enjoying his time there. At 39, Yeley has competed in all three NASCAR national series and is now at the point where he just wants to drive a competitive racecar wherever he can.

Right now, that’s with Mark Smith, who Yeley must be making feel really good.

“We like to have fun. That’s important especially being a small team because it’s a family-owned team, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. And going and knocking off big teams is fun,” Yeley said. “As the morale gets built up higher, every one of these guys wants to work harder and you don’t always get that at a big race team. That side of it is great.

“Obviously, I’d love to still be in a Cup car, and if I can get that opportunity, I’ll do both in a heartbeat. I’m not going to quit one to do the other. I love being in a racecar and if that means I’m going to spend 7 hours on a Saturday and do it again on Sunday, by God I’m going to do it. But to be in a competitive situation with a great sponsor like Zachry who is very supportive of the team is definitely good for me right now.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.