Former NASCAR team-owner and renowned engine builder Robert Yates has passed away aged seventy-four after a battle with liver cancer. Yates, who was recently chosen as a 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, has been paid tribute to by much of the NASCAR community, including his son, Doug, who took over his father’s companies in 2007. Doug announced the news of his fathers’ passing on social media on Monday night:
“Hero — my dad’s my hero,” said Doug Yates on Twitter, “My dad’s the toughest guy you’ve ever met. Never give up, always looking for the positive and looking for a competitive advantage, and that’s the way he raised myself and our family and everybody at Roush Yates.”
Yates’ career in NASCAR as an engine builder stretches back to the late sixties when he began working for Holman-Moody Racing, followed by a role with Junior Johnson‘s team in 1971 and an extended tenure with DiGard Racing. His engines will help power the likes LeeRoy Yarbrough, Bobby Allison and more to success during this time, but his work was only just beginning.
In 1988, Yates bit the bullet and bought the rights to the Ranier-Lundy Racing team and formed his own NASCAR Cup Series squad; Robert Yates Racing. Davey Allison was the team’s first driver and helped take them to victory in the 1992 Daytona 500 as well as two third-place finishes in the championship before tragically being killed in a helicopter crash at Talladega Speedway in 1993.
The team would also expand to further cars and drivers in the years following, including the addition of Dale Jarrett from 1995 until the end of 2006. Jarrett would be the man to give Yates the team’s sole championship victory in the 1999 season; where Dale took four victories and a further sixteen other top-five finishes during the season en-route to the championship trophy.
When Robert retired from team ownership at the end of 2007, his son Doug would take the reigns. The team would later merge with Richard Petty Motorsport, but the Yates engine building programme remains as one of the best in the business to this day; powering Ford teams such as Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and more.
Robert Yates would go on to receive much acclaim for his time spent as a NASCAR team owner and engine builder. His most recent accolade was when he was chosen to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2018. He received an overwhelming number of votes for his admission, appearing on 94% of the ballots; the highest number seen since the vote for David Pearson in 2011.
“I don’t even know if I’ll sleep tonight,” Yates said, overcome with emotion at the news of his Hall of Fame admission back in May, “I’m so honored and I love this sport, and I want this sport to do the same thing it did for me, again and again and again.”
Tributes have poured in for Yates following the news of his passing throughout NASCAR’s teams, drivers and affiliates.
Current Ford driver for Team Penske, Brad Keselowski, made a tribute on Twitter, saying “Mr. Robert was one of the first to welcome me to NC ten years ago. I’ll never forget that day.”
Jeff Gordon, who fought Yates’ team and drivers throughout his Cup series career, said that he was “one of the fiercest & most respected competitors the 24 team ever went up against. He will be missed.”
Edsel B. Ford II, one of the board of directors for the Ford Motor Company, made a touching tribute when he likened Yates to his own great-grandfather; Henry Ford.
“Much like my great-grandfather, Henry Ford, Robert was a tinkerer. They both leave behind a legion of admirers and friends who benefited from their mentorship and their passion.
We at Ford offer our sincere condolences to Robert’s wife Carolyn, his son Doug, daughter Amy and his eight grandchildren.”
Robert Yates. April 19th 1943 – October 2nd 2017. Rest in peace.