CHARLOTTE, N.C. - J.J. Yeley may very well have a long and successful NASCAR career.
It just won't be with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Kyle Busch will be named the new driver for Gibbs' flagship No. 18 on Tuesday, a hiring that knocks Yeley out of his ride after less than two seasons at NASCAR's top level. It makes Yeley an unlikely free agent, as he wasn't exactly terrible during his short time with the elite Gibbs team.
The former sprint car star showed steady improvement as he adjusted to stock cars. He's polite, well-spoken and stays out of trouble on and off the track. And he's so likable, Gibbs' top officials are still praising him even as they push Yeley out the door.
“I love J.J.,” team president J.D. Gibbs said before Sunday's race. “He's been a huge part of what we've done over the past several years. A ton of talent.”
Despite doing everything his team ever asked of him, Yeley is now looking for work because he's a victim of bad timing and an unrealistic barometer for success.
Yeley started this second full season with one goal: To improve on his rookie year showing of 29th in the points.
He's certainly done that, notching the first top-five finish at Charlotte in May. He won a pole at Michigan in June, and he's currently 21st in the season standings.