Remember J.J. Yeley? He was the boy wonder at Joe Gibbs Racing who was shoved out upon the arrival of Kyle Busch. Yeley is trying to mount a comeback of sorts. First step on the comeback trail: the comeback press release. Hey, at least he faught the urge to put the word out on Twitter, Denny Hamlin-style.
The year 2009 has sucked for Yeley. Not only was he without a full-time ride for the year, but he also broke three vertebrae in an August crash at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas. Yeley said he felt sore after the race. X-rays told a different story. Doctors had to fuse two vertebrae with screws and a metal plate, leaving Yeley in a neck brace for much of the year. From the no-surprise department, Yeley hasn’t raced since then.
Said Yeley, “For the most part, I’ve got 80 to 85 percent of my original range of motion in my head and neck. I’m able to turn my head fine. I’m just a little slow from looking up. I think that’s probably my most challenging maneuver is to try to look up at the sky. I just don’t have quite the movement I did before. I also understand that by fusing two vertebrae, I’m going to lose a little bit of motion anyway. From the people and specialists I’ve seen, they are already very surprised at how far and advanced I am in getting back to normal.”
Yeley has turned into a fan who watches the races like us. While many of us have been frustrated by how much the races have stunk, Yeley has been frustrated by his inability to work.
“It makes the passion for me even stronger. I had some opportunities coming up that I basically had to abort because of the injury. It’s different when you’re forced not to be able to do something versus not having the opportunity or the chances or passing up on different rides. Being told that you have to sit idle, that you can’t do something, I guess makes you want it even more.”
The good news is Yeley’s rehab should allow him to start racing in December. The better news is Yeley plans to race in January’s Chili Bowl. The oh-crap news is Yeley now has to compete with Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland, David Stremme, Reed Sorenson, Erik Darnell, probably Casey Mears and possibly Bobby Labonte for rides on the Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series. An impressive list. Sure. Yeley is undaunted, and not dead yet.
J.J. Yeley crash