CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Renowned engine builder, team owner and 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class member Robert Yates passed away Monday night at the age of 74, following a battle with liver cancer.
Yates was the son of Rev. John Clyde Yates and grew up in Charlotte with his eight siblings. He held a degree in mechanical engineering from Wilson Technical College.
He excelled in two aspects of NASCAR that put him among the sport’s greats – engine building (his first love) and team ownership.
After starting his career at Holman-Moody Racing in 1968, Yates landed a job with NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson in 1971 … and the rest is history. He provided the power behind Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough, later leading Allison to a series championship in 1983 with DiGard Racing.
Later, Yates was known for starting Robert Yates Racing, following purchase of legendary team owner Harry Ranier’s operation in 1988.
The team immediately found success, finishing second in its first-ever start, the 1988 Daytona 500.
In all, Yates won 57 career races as a team owner at NASCAR’s top level (now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series), including the 1992 Daytona 500 with the late Davey Allison and two more Daytona 500s with Dale Jarrett in 1996 and 2000.
But the team’s shining moment came when Jarrett led Yates to the 1999 Cup Series championship, Yates’ first (and only) title as an owner at NASCAR’s top echelon.
That season, Jarrett won four times and scored 24 top-five and 29 top-10s in 34 races, taking the championship lead 11 races in and never relinquishing it again as he drove away to a mammoth 201-point margin over runner-up Bobby Labonte.
In 2000, Yates was honored as a recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence — the highest honor in NASCAR.
While he retired as a team owner at the end of the 2007 season, Yates formed engine-building company Robert Yates Racing Engines in 2010, alongside partner and son-in-law Chris Davy. The company is the exclusive provider of the NASCAR-approved spec engine.
In addition, Yates’ son Doug is the CEO of Roush-Yates Engines, which provides power for all the Ford teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Yates was diagnosed with liver cancer in October of 2016, and was selected as the leading member of the 2018 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May, garnering the highest vote percentage of all the available nominees on the ballot.
He will officially enter the Hall of Fame on Jan. 19, 2017.
A member of the Ford family for his entire tenure as a team owner, Yates was beloved within the ‘Blue Oval Brigade’, and Ford offered poignant thoughts on Yates’ passing Monday night.
“Robert Yates knew the value of hard work and earned everything he achieved in life,” said Dave Pericak, the global director for Ford Performance. “Not only was Robert a legendary engine builder and championship car owner, but he was a husband, father, grandfather and loyal Ford man who left an immeasurable impact on those who knew him.”
“He was a respected and valued member of the Ford family and co-founder of Roush Yates Engines, and while we’ll miss the wisdom he possessed for working on engines and race cars, we will miss his caring demeanor and friendship even more. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert’s wife, Carolyn, his two children, Doug and Amy, and his eight grandchildren.”
The staff at Race Chaser Online and the Performance Motorsports Network offers their thoughts, prayers and condolences to the Yates family and all those in the racing community who knew and were impacted by Robert’s work within the sport.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame contributed material to this story.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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