Yeley to replace Raines at Hall of Fame Racing
HUNTERVILLE, N.C. -- J.J. Yeley will lose Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin as teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008, but they'll remain tied to a manufacturer. Yeley on Tuesday signed a three-year deal with Hall of Fame Racing, a satellite team for JGR.
JGR has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday morning to announce it will move from Chevrolet to Toyota next season. HOF owners Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel said they plan to remain tied to JGR and its manufacturer.
"We've had discussions with one other team about the potential of changing over," Garfinkel said. "We've been open with J.D. [Gibbs, JGR's president] about that. It's been our strong desire all along to say with Gibbs Racing. They've been great partners up to this point."
Manufacturer had no bearing on Yeley's decision to sign with HOF over Robert Yates Racing and Richard Childress Racing. But the organization's connection to JGR was a factor.
"Because this is a one-car team, obviously they're not going to have the resources some of the other teams do," Yeley said. "Because they do get their cars from Joe Gibbs Racing everything is familiar to me, so I'm not making a huge change for 2008."
Yeley said JGR and HOF can automatically raise the standard for Toyota, which has struggled in its first year in the Nextel Cup series.
"There's never been really a performance problem at Joe Gibbs Racing," he said. "The equipment we'll be getting from them will be good. Obviously, there has been some question about engines and I think they'll get those resolved and there'll be no problem."
Garfinkel, who worked with Toyota while with the Chip Ganassi Racing Indy car program, expects the foreign manufacturer to become successful quickly. "They're a great company and they've had a track record of success in racing," said. "They operate professionally. They know how to go racing. They know how to win races.
"They knew it was going to be a struggle coming into the sport. They've weathered that, they're committed to it and they'll be successful."
Raines has only one top 10 since taking over the No. 96 last season and is 31st in points. Yeley is 20th in points with a career-best second at the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May.
Yeley said he has no hard feelings towards JGR and that he looks forward to maintaining a relationship with the organization.
"I'm really focused on turning my career around to where we can go out there and win races and try to win championships," he said.
HOF began in 2003 under the ownership of former NFL stars Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Majority ownership was sold last week to Moorad, the chief executive officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Garfinkel, the chief operating officer.
"We looked at a lot of places," said Yeley's agent, Kyle Chapman. "After meeting with Jeff and Tom, the new owners, and with their Phoenix tie [Yeley is native of Phoenix] it was a no-brainer.
"We just had to be real quiet about it because of their purchase of the team."
Yeley said HOF wasn't at the top of his list until the change of ownership.
"Not that I couldn't have been successful at Richard Childress Racing or Yates or some of the other teams I was considering," he said. "I just think this is going to be the best fit to where I'm going to be the most comfortable for my career."
David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.
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