Yeley takes seat in No. 41
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- J.J. Yeley will replace suspended Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield in the No. 41 car beginning with this weekend's preliminary to the Sprint All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Yeley said on Tuesday that before an official announcement can be made, Mayfield must dissolve his ownership in the organization. He said the plan is for Mayfield's wife, Shana, to be listed as the official owner.
"I've already been to the shop and have been fitted for a seat. ... I met with the team," said Yeley, who has two top-fives and seven top-10s in 95 Cup races.
Mayfield on Saturday became the first Cup driver to be suspended for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy. The indefinite suspension affects him as a driver as well as an owner; he started his team about a month before the start of the season.
The 39-year-old Mayfield insists he did nothing wrong, that the positive test was the result of combining a prescription drug with an over-the-counter drug for allergies. Dr. David Black, who runs NASCAR's testing program, disputed his claim.
Yeley, who has been out of a Cup ride since losing his job at Hall of Fame Racing last season, had no reservations about stepping into Mayfield's seat.
"I don't," he said. "I know from the dealings I've had with Jeremy he's a super nice guy. I met with all the guys over there. They're the underdog trying to make it in the big world. They've got the equipment. It's just been a big learning curve trying to figure out this car.
"But they have cars more than capable of making these races."
Yeley will have to qualify on speed beginning with next week's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Mayfield made only five of the first 11 races and ranked 45th in points. Only the top 35 in owner points are guaranteed a starting spot.
Yeley doesn't know how long the ride will last, but says there's a chance it could be the rest of the season.
"There's a question about what will happen with Jeremy," he said. "I am not exactly sure of the discussions Jeremy had with NASCAR. What he's telling me is [the positive test] was between medications he takes. Obviously, it's nothing bad. "If he can find a way to get reinstated, he will. I don't know how that's going to work."
But Yeley said Mayfield is determined to keep a car on the track regardless.
"They want to make it in the sport," Yeley said. "Those guys, they show up at 8 in the morning and they were still there at 8 in the evening. They have a lot of heart and soul over there."
Yeley understands he'll be subjected to the same random drug tests Mayfield took once he steps into the car. He is concerned, however, that he does not know what is on the list of banned substances.
"I know in the NFL and some of the other professional sports they make a list of everything that is legal and not legal," he said. "I don't think that's the way NASCAR does it. I don't know what I can take. If I have a migraine I'm scared to death to take something that may or may not trigger something."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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