NASCAR: 19-year veteran won't compete in first Daytona 500 since 2015

J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson edges out J.J. Yeley, Daytona 500, NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson edges out J.J. Yeley, Daytona 500, NASCAR / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

With the 36 charter entries locked into the Daytona 500 field, there were six drivers going for the final four spots in this year's NASCAR Cup Series season opener. Following NY Racing Team's late addition of the No. 44 Chevrolet to the entry list, J.J. Yeley was one of those six drivers.

Among that group of six drivers, Yeley was fifth quickest in Wednesday night's qualifying session at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona International Speedway oval.

Because he was not in the top two, he did not lock into the "Great American Race" on speed, and because he was not in the top four, he had no way of backing in on speed if the top two, Beard Motorsports' Anthony Alfredo and RFK Racing's David Ragan, ended up racing their way in instead via Thursday night's Bluegreen Vacation Duels.

J.J. Yeley knocked out of Daytona 500 again

For Yeley, it was simple: he needed to outrun both Alfredo and Legacy Motor Club's Jimmie Johnson in the first 60-lap Duel at the Daytona Beach, Florida venue. He came one lap away from doing so, but it was Johnson who prevailed with a 12th place finish. Yeley finished in 16th. Alfredo finished in 19th and was able to fall back on his qualifying speed to lock in.

Because Front Row Motorsports' Kaz Grala, who did not post a qualifying speed, was able to race his way in by beating Ragan and Live Fast Motorsports' B.J. McLeod in the second Duel, McLeod was also left on the outside looking in.

Grala's result also meant that if Yeley had managed to stay ahead of Johnson, the two-time Daytona 500 winner and seven-time Cup Series champion would have missed the Daytona 500 entirely. Instead, Yeley was eliminated -- again.

This marks three consecutive failed Daytona 500 qualifying efforts for Yeley. He missed the race in 2020 with Rick Ware Racing, and he missed it in 2022 with MBM Motorsports. He has not competed in the race since 2015, when he comepted for BK Racing.

Yeley was not initially planning to return to the Cup Series in 2024. He had competed in the series in 19 of the last 20 seasons, but his goal was to land a competitive Xfinity Series ride for 2024. His deal with NY Racing Team was only announced hours before Wednesday's qualifying session.

Whether or not the 19-year veteran ends up running any Cup Series races later this season remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain: he will not be competing in the 66th annual Daytona 500.

NASCAR: 2024 Daytona 500 qualifying updates, full starting lineup. dark. Next. NASCAR: 2024 Daytona 500 qualifying updates, full starting lineup

Fox is set to provide live coverage of the Daytona 500 from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, February 18. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!