You’ve got to feel bad for JJ Yeley after how the end of the Bluegreen Vacation Duels played out Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Yeley, who was in a sluggish No. 55 HEX.com MBM Motorsports Ford Mustang, had somehow put himself in a position to advance to the Daytona 500, thanks to mistakes on pit road by The Money Team Racing’s Kaz Grala.
But after having what appeared to be an insurmountable lead on Grala in the closing laps of Duel No. 1, Grala incredibly made up the gap on Yeley and passed him for the final Open car transfer spot of the 2022 Daytona 500 on the final lap of the event.
Yeley’s advancement seemed like such a foregone conclusion, that FOX scrapped even following the transfer spot for the final laps of the broadcast which led Mike Joy, Clint Bowyer and Larry McReynolds to be initially confused at how Yeley lost the transfer spot. In the end, it felt like one of those Southwest Airlines ads, and you just felt Yeley, “Wanted to get away.”
“I mean, it sucks. It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Yeley told TobyChristie.com of missing the field for the Daytona 500. “I’ll probably go watch this Duel. You can’t go too crazy because we do have Xfinity practice tomorrow. I’ve been doing this long enough that you have to take it with a grain of salt, but it definitely stings knowing we were so close again and not making it.”
Following the race, Yeley thanked BJ McLeod for sticking with him the entire Duel, but feels when the duo picked up Daniel Hemric’s draft in the closing laps, that manufacturer orders came into play.
“It actually started with probably about four or five laps to go,” Yeley explained. “When BJ McLeod pushed me the entire race, that’s what really kept me in contention there. We caught the 16 of Hemric and with him out front, we were nearly two or three tenths per lap faster, the three of us. And at that point, I thought we were really, really safe.
“I’m assuming Chevy orders, team orders whatever it was were to kind of slow down. We went from running 49-teens to running 50-teens. We lost a full second [per lap]. I really couldn’t figure out why until the Chevy pack went by after we took the white, it totally made sense. It would have been odd [for Hemric] to help a Ford lock yourself into the race and cost a Chevy team an opportunity.”
For Yeley, missing the Daytona 500 again, he also missed it in his last attempt in 2020, is very upsetting.
“Disappointing. We didn’t have a spectacular race car and need all the help we can get. I just thought if we let the race play out, we would have been safe,” Yeley explained. “But, unfortunately, manufacturer orders wouldn’t let that happen.”
Adding to the crushing nature of the defeat for the 45-year old was that he was driving a car with sponsorship from cryptocurrency HEX.com, who as a community funded the effort and were making their first foray into NASCAR sponsorship.
“Super disappointed for HEX.com,” Yeley anguished. “This was their first race. The goal was obviously to get them the experience in the Daytona 500, not the Duels on Thursday. And to be so close, that’s almost a bigger sting than finishing a straightaway back or not even being in contention. Again, five laps to go, I felt very confident in the speeds we were running and the distance we had for those guys to try to makeup, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
While the Arizona-native ultimately missed the big show, seeing how excited the HEX.com community was about him and the race was a silver lining amid the defeat.
“They have been phenomenal. The support they have given me on social media, it has been really cool,” Yeley stated with a smile. “One of the gentlemen actually posted a stake of $1-million if I finished Dayton 500 in the top-three. So, it just shows the compassion they have, not only for HEX and their cryptocurrency, but also their family the Hexicans they like to call themselves. They’re jacked for the opportunity, I’m just bitterly disappointed because we didn’t make the race.”
MBM Motorsports team owner Carl Long told TobyChristie.com that he will coordinate with HEX.com to give them another primary sponsor deal at a future race in an effort to ease the pain of missing the Daytona 500, past that, Yeley doesn’t know what’s next as far as his relationship with HEX.com, yet.
“It’s really hard to tell. This was going to be their dipping their toe in the water if you will. Obviously, they love everything that is going on with it, but that is a conversation we are going to have to have a little further down the road,” Yeley said. “The sponsorship was literally put together by the community. It wasn’t a corporation. It was thousands of people putting money into the pot to make it possible for this opportunity to happen. Just thankful for their sacrifices and belief in their product and in us showcasing it in the World of Speed.”
While Yeley was slow, he at least still had a chance at advancing. For Timmy Hill, things were even worse as the No. 66 MBM Motorsports machine lost four laps in the 60-lap Duel No. 2 on pure speed alone.
The Next Gen has been called the great equalizer and it is supposed to level the playing field in 2022. With that being said, how were the MBM Motorsports cars so far off Thursday at Daytona?
In a chat with TobyChristie.com after the race, Long explained that with it being a new car, and with MBM not having manufacturer support, they are, “learning through trial and error and there haven’t been too many trials.”
Long revealed that just about every other team in the field received wind tunnel data from their manufacturer to help them set their Next Gen cars up for Daytona. Long says MBM Motorsports didn’t have that luxury. Instead, they had to take stabs at new components of the car and hope they guessed correctly on how things would work in the draft.
Long story short, no pun intended, they guessed wrong.
Where it all went wrong for MBM in the end was with the rear diffuser. Long says the team played with the angling of the diffuser, a legal move on the Next Gen car, which he and the team hoped would help cause an aerodynamic advantage on the car. Unfortunately, the strategy had the reverse affect and the diffuser caused the MBM cars to have massive amounts of drag on Thursday night, which ultimately slowed them down.
Luckily, the team will throw these notes in their bank of information going forward, but it does little to ease the financial burden of having both of their cars miss the 2022 Daytona 500.
Long explained the night was, “Heartbreaking,” because he expected to at least have one of the two cars make the show to offset the costs of being at Daytona. While it was a disappointing night that left Yeley, Long and MBM licking their wounds, the group doesn’t have much time to dwell on things.
Yeley will now prepare for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. Yeley and Long, who made the move to put Yeley in the No. 66 Xfinity car last minute after Timmy Hill had been announced as the driver, are hoping to turn Yeley into a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contender in 2022.