2014 was a learning year for the team. Everyone had the same goals, the same mind set, that being working together to bring about the best possible results. If anyone, anywhere doubted their dedication in this endeavor it has to be completely gone following this year’s Xfinity race at Daytona.
J.J. Yeley returned as the driver of the #28 Toyota Camry. Eric McClure signed on as the driver of the #24 Reynolds Wrap/Hefty Brands Camry and Mike Wallace returned as a part time driver of the #26 Toyota.
47 cars attempted to qualify under the new qualifying format. The teams were divided in 4 groups each group racing for 2 1/2 minutes. In the end the field was set with the 33 fastest cars and the final 7 with provisionals. It seems to be pure luck as to who starts where. After all they are racing at incredible speeds with drafting or lack of it calling the final shots. Amazingly all 3 JGL cars were in the starting lineup! That is truly incredible when you consider the qualifying format, that one of their teams is new, one is part time and the overall sponsorship is nothing like any of the bigger racing organizations .There were some tense moments during qualifying, and some misfortune but when the fuel fumes cleared all 3 drivers had qualified on time.
I spoke with Mike Wallace about qualifying and the race results. “As soon as qualifying was finished I could have sworn we were going home but fortunately we didn’t. We were 1st and 3rd quickest the day before and ended up leading the group but not wanting to. There was enough emotion going around in the hauler between myself and ownership for about an hour. The day before was the highest of highs, we were the quickest car in the morning practice. That showed all of the hard work the team had done over the winter. And then to turn around and be the first group a session out with Yeley ending up being the fastest in the JGL group and I was the slowest.” .
“Beginning with the start of the race, we ran very well, we were moving forward and being very smart about it. We had actually fallen to the back because it was 3 wide and for awhile 10 rows deep. We didn’t need to be in a position to get torn up. Then it lined out and we were able to move forward. Around lap 30 a horrible screeching noise came across my radio. I turned the radio off and then back on. I could hear my team but they couldn’t hear me. So we went through the first pitstop fine and moved toward the front of the field, 8th, 9th or 10th, I don’t know exactly where and then the big wreck happened on the straightaway. I missed it, so I pulled down on pitroad, slowed half way down like we’re suppose to, did everything properly and again remember the crash happened on the straightaway.”
“We slowed to a moderate speed and were slowing down in turn one and two. I could hear the crew guys asking me if I slid the tires. Realizing that I couldn’t communicate with them I pulled the radio from the box and tried to change the way I talked to them. I tried to operate it by hand and pushed the talk button at the same time. Doing this and trying to put the radio back in the case and they all had just crashed on the straightaway. The pace car wasn’t out, nothing was out and I figured we would just drive one more lap and then the pace car would come out and gather us up”.
“So I was coming around turn 2, trying to put the radio back in the case and I looked up to see the whole field was still stopped. There are cars across the whole track. Never, repeat never, in the history of NASCAR has the race leader stopped the race on his own and in the middle of the straightaway without the pace car being involved. They all just stopped. There were a few cars that ran into each other that people didn’t see and that’s what happened. It was a mistake on my part. Ultimately it was my fault because I was driving the car. But race procedure was blown totally and I ran into Austin Dillion. When all was said and done Austin Dillion finished fourth and understood what had taken place. He said that that is where he thought he would finish. But I was devastated because we tore up a car and finshed 13th. But if that hadn’t happened like it did I would have been right in the middle of that big wreck and it would have totally destroyed our car.”
“I was not happy with the way things ended up but the end result was that the team did a great job and had a positive attitude when it was all said and done. We didn’t tear our racecar up a lot and we still rallied back to finish 13th. That’s it, that’s what took place from the highs when we unloaded Friday and being fastest in the first and second sessions, to almost missing the race on Saturday. JJ Yeley ran really well, qualified well and kept the team in high spirits which was good. But through all of that I ended up being the highest finishing JGL car of the day.
Despite being involved in a crash JJ Yeley finished 27th and Eric McClure finished 17th.
At Daytona anything can and quite often does happen. Using the term “fairytale” in conjunction with JGL Racing is misleading. It is true that the way this team came together in just 2 months is a story unlike any other, but their accomplishments, on and off the track, are the results of hard work, intricate planning and placing the right people in the right places. Fairytale? Absolutely not! They are completely dedicated and hard working. Many thought their goals weren’t realistic. That would be true of many racing endeavors but James Whitener and the entire JGL team showed the racing world that dreams can come true. From the start to present day, they are like nothing else in this series today. I’ve said this is a team to keep watching. I’m proud to say I was right and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the rest of this season.
Next up Atlanta.
You can follow the drivers and this team on Facebook and please be sure to check out these great sponsors:
www.hefty.com and www.reynoldskitchens.com. and on facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/Hefty and https://www.facebook.com/