Get to know NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver JJ Yeley in this week’s edition of MotorRacingNetwork.com’s "Driver Spotlight."
When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a racecar driver?
Yeley: I was probably four or five years old. My dad is a seven-time Midget champion in Arizona. That's all we ever did. I went to my first race when I was two-and-a-half weeks old. It was something I was bred for. I played a little baseball as a kid, but racing is something I've always wanted to do. I enjoyed working on cars and all aspects of it. Now that I'm here, I can't imagine doing anything else.
When did you take your first checkered flag, at any level?
Yeley: It would have been in a quarter-midget in South Mountain, about five miles from Phoenix International Raceway, when I was nine. I think I won my first four races in a novice class. I got started in racing in the right way - getting the checkered flag first. I actually started racing a little bit late compared to (when) a lot of kids do today just because of the fact that my dad raced and there wasn’t enough time for me to start my career.
Who were your racing idols growing up?
Yeley: Dale Earnhardt Sr. and A.J. Foyt. Both of their records speak for themselves. A.J. was probably the most (idolized), for the versatility he had as a driver. He won in anything there was out there.
How did you come up with your "Speed Dice" program for qualifying?
Yeley: It’s a game we actually started a couple years ago just playing as a team, when we were making a lot of qualifying runs with our dice in the trunk and we kind of bet on it. It morphed into something I could do from a social media standpoint, something I can do with all my Facebook and Twitter followers. I have a container and I put it in the car every week. We pick a number and I'll send the winner a prize. This year, it's going to be anything from signed visors to gift cards. Last year, I gave away helmets and uniforms. I try to keep the prizes pretty diverse. It's just another way for me to communicate with my fans.
What was your first street car?
Yeley: A yellow 1980 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. It had a 388 (cubic inch) small block. I guess my dad spoiled me as a kid, but it was a cool little hot rod.
What's your favorite restaurant to visit on the NASCAR schedule?
Yeley: It would probably be Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. I normally hit that spot every time we're in Texas.
What are the top songs or favorite bands on your iPod?
Yeley: It's a pretty diverse group, but it's usually either Shinedown or Foo Fighters - something that's got a lot of energy to it.
Outside of racing, what are your favorite hobbies?
Yeley: I play golf every now and then but only to remind myself why I drive racecars. I'm OK, but I'm not a serious golfer by any means.
When you get the chance to watch TV, what are your favorite shows?
Yeley: I have a seven-year-old so I spend a lot of time on the Disney Channel. I don’t get to watch a lot of TV. Usually, I try to catch a movie but if not, I'm sitting there watching SpongeBob or whatever my daughter is watching.
What's your favorite vacation spot?
Yeley: Any place I can have a drink in my hand and sit on a beach. If that's on the beautiful North Carolina coastline or Jamaica, Wherever it's warm and I can enjoy a little bit of the ocean.
You had a big week coming out of Daytona, finishing in the top 10 and winning a free dinner for kids at Golden Corral. What was the reaction like from both the fans and your sponsor after the 10th-place run?
Yeley: It was fantastic. My first time being in the '36' with Golden Corral sponsorship and being able to do it in the crown jewel of all NASCAR races - the Daytona 500 - was really cool. I know they were super ecstatic. I took my daughter to Golden Corral on Monday, we enjoyed the meal and I guess the most touching thing was that we were sitting there eating and I had three kids come up to me and thank me for their meal. It was cool, knowing that what we accomplished on Sunday allowed a lot of kids to have a nice meal on Monday.
You recently partnered with the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. How did that come about?
Yeley: I've been doing that for about two years, now - I usually do a "Pay-it-forward Friday." I spend a lot of time trying to do nice things for people. The fact there's an organization that promotes the same thing made a lot of sense, to try and group up to spread awareness and just remind people that sometimes, it's easier to help someone out then it is to just leave them sitting there.