Jay Drake (above) was leading up until the final lap last night at Twin Cities Raceway Park before J.J. Yeley passed him for the win. Drake ended up finishing second in the 30-lap event.
Nobody expected J.J. Yeley to come from nowhere to pick up his 27th career USAC Valvoline National Sprint Car Series victory.
Back from stock car country, Yeley did just that. For the third consecutive year, Yeley scored the Valvoline "Indiana Sprint Week" feature win at Twin Cities Raceway Park, snookering runner-up Jay Drake out of the lead in the race's final turn in the opener of the seven-race series.
Starting 13th, Yeley moved all the way to fourth by the race's final caution and, after positioning himself in second, drove by Drake on the final lap, the only circuit he led in the 30-lapper.
"I just kept working the racetrack, using different lanes, and finally found a good groove," Yeley said as nabbed the event's hard charger award for gaining a race-high 12 spots. "Coming off the bottom and squaring up, I got really hooked up. I just went elbows up and made the passes, and came away with the win."
Early in the caution-plagued race, Drake and Josh Wise swapped the top two positions. Drake blew by polesitter Bud Kaeding at the onset and was followed by Wise after the first circuit. Wise, who started in fourth, gained the second spot after passing Kaeding and Shane Cottle.
Drake maintained the top spot despite several cautions, which helped Wise stay close. But Wise wouldn't follow suit much longer. Though he fell behind by as many as five car lengths, Wise passed Drake on lap five and would lead for the next 16 laps.
While Drake tried to gain the point back, utilizing the top groove, Yeley was on his way to the front. He fought his way into the "top sixth" by halfway and battled Kaeding, Cottle and fast qualifier Levi Jones, for their third, fourth and fifth spots.
On lap 21, Drake made the high groove the place to pass again. He zipped by Wise as the two battled again following a caution and pulled away from the field.
What he couldn't see behind him was Yeley's progress. Yeley worked the top side of Levi Jones on lap 26 for third, then a lap later blew past Wise on the outside. It was then the driver who replaced him in the Tony Stewart Racing stable who would fall last.
Yeley pulled up behind Drake as the two slid through the first and second turns on the white flag lap. The duo quickly caught a slower car, and with Drake trying to move past, Yeley calmly roped around the Californian going into the third turn.
With Drake partially pinned behind the slower machine, Yeley went on for his first series victory of the season and, with eight Valvoline "Indiana Sprint Week" victories to his credit, owns the most wins in the series' 17-year history. He led Drake, Jones, Wise and Cottle to the finish.
Yeley, who gave Gary Stanton a win in the Deford Chrysler/F-5 Mopar, plans to continue running the remainder of "Indiana Sprint Week" minus the features at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt on Sunday and at Lawrenceburg Speedway on July 22, due to previous NASCAR commitments.
That won't keep him away forever.
"We're just looking to have some fun out here," Yeley said. "We've got to take care of some important things so we won't be at every race, but this is my first love and I want to run as much as possible."
Jones nearly eclipsed the track record, lapping the 3/8-mile track in 13.930 seconds. Kent Christian and Scotty Weir won six-lap qualifying races, while Tony Elliott, Kris Deckard, Charles Davis Jr. and Marc Jessup triumphed in 10-lap heats. Dave Darland won the 12-lap semifeature.
The program was interrupted for three flips -- involving Derek Scheffel, Mat Neely and Mike Spencer -- but none were seriously injured.
A total of 65 sprinters were entered for the night's festivities. The sprinters resume action in the seven-race series with a 30-lap feature Friday at the Gas City I-69 Speedway. Drake continues to hold a comfortable margin in the season point standings while Yeley holds the "Indiana Sprint Week" points lead.