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JJ Yeley to Make Xtreme Outlaw Midget Debut at Millbridge with Petty Performance Racing

2003 USAC Triple Crown winner continuing passion of dirt track racing with new team owner
Josh James Artwork

J.J. Yeley has spent his last 20 Memorial Day weekends competing in the most prestigious races in motorsports and this year he’ll add a new event to that list.

The NASCAR veteran and former USAC champion will make his debut with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota at Millbridge Speedway – Tuesday-Wednesday, May 21-22 – for the DIAEDGE Double Down Showdown.

“Regardless of where I am in my life and career, I’ve always been a dirt guy,” Yeley said. “That’s always been my passion. That’s where I started my career. Even though I’ve spent 20 years in NASCAR, I’ve run IndyCar, I’ve always kept the dirt side of things close to my heart. It didn’t matter if it was Midgets or Sprint Cars.”

Yeley, 47, of Phoenix, AZ, will get behind the wheel of the Avanti Windows & Doors-sponsored, Stanton-powered Ripper Chassis Midget for one of open-wheel racing’s newest teams – Petty Performance Racing (PPR), which was founded by fellow Arizona-native and Avanti CEO Jerry Petty in fall 2023.

Though it’s been roughly 20 years since he last competed full-time in the USAC ranks, Yeley has found pockets of time to be able to keep in touch with his dirt roots. He made scattered starts in the mid-2000s after taking on NASCAR full-time, but soon made efforts to scale back on the dirt after a hard crash sidelined him.

“The scheduling was always more difficult to do,” Yeley said. “After I was injured in 2009 at Lakeside (Speedway) in a USAC Non-Wing Sprint Car, I pumped the brakes a little bit on some of the events that I did, and then became more comfortable going back and doing it.”

In April, Yeley competed in a USAC CRA Sprint Car race in Arizona, piloting one of Petty’s Non-Wing Sprint Cars to an eighth-place finish.

Petty has been a supporter and investor of dirt track racing for many years, sponsoring multiple events and putting the Avanti logo on the side of several cars across the country. He’s had a strong connection with the Yeley family in sponsoring J.J.’s father Jack, who won several Midget championships around Arizona in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Avanti-sponsored Non-Wing Sprint Car driven by Riley Kreisel in 2023 // Josh James Artwork

Petty broke new ground on the foundation of his PPR race team for 2024, putting a Non-Wing Sprint Car operation together for Indiana racer Kyle Cummins, and a new Midget for Yeley’s own endeavors this season.

“Jerry Petty has been a sponsor of my dad for the last couple years, fantastic guy,” Yeley said. “He reminds me of a modern-day J.W. Hunt.”

Yeley debuted the Midget at the Chili Bowl Nationals in January but had limited results after experiencing mechanical issues during the week.

“It wasn’t a good barometer for what I feel the car has the capabilities of,” Yeley said.

He said he’s resolved those issues and will be ready to go at Millbridge, despite the limited time he’s spent on track with the car.

“Gonna go at it a little bit blindly, but it’s nothing new to show up to the racetrack and just have to make adjustments, see if we can find the speed and do what we need to win the race,” Yeley said.

He’ll race Millbridge next week as one of the only driver, mechanic and crew chief entrants in the field. Yeley said as far back as his days as a full-time USAC racer, he has always been most comfortable as the head wrench on his equipment – something he feels gives him an edge over the competition.

“As far as calling the shots, I’ve always been best doing that myself,” Yeley said. “If it’s not a good night, there’s no one to blame other than myself. If it came down to hard work, perseverance, the success comes from having to do it yourself and not necessarily relying on other people to get the job done for you.”

It’s been almost two years since his last national Midget series start, but he hasn’t forgotten how to wheel. Yeley is taking the two-day event at Millbridge seriously, armed with great equipment, a “DIY” attitude and the spirit of hard work.

“I’m showing up to win,” Yeley said. “There’s no participation trophy in my world; there never has been.”

See Yeley and his new Petty Performance Racing ride compete against the stars of the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota at Millbridge Speedway next Tuesday-Wednesday night, May 21-22, in the third annual DIAEDGE Double Down Showdown.

Tickets will be on sale at the gate on race day. If you can’t be there in person, stream every lap live on DIRTVision.