Robert Yates | 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominee
- NASCAR Championship Team Owner for Dale Jarrett- 1999
- Premier NASCAR Engine Builder with 77 wins – 1967-1988
- NASCAR Championship Engine Builder with Bobby Allison – 1983
- NASCAR Engine Builder for Richard Petty’s 199th and 200th win
- Daytona 500 Engine Builder and NASCAR Team Owner- 1969, 1982, 1992, 1996, 2000
- 3 time Winning Daytona 500 NASCAR Team Owner – 1992, 1996, 2000
- 2 time Winning Brickyard 400 NASCAR Team Owner – 1996, 1999
- 57 Wins and 48 Poles as a NASCAR Team Owner
- Recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence – 2000
- Recipient of the Buddy Shuman Award for lifetime achievement in NASCAR – 2007
- Recipient of the Bruton Smith Legends Award – 2010
- Inducted into NASCAR Auto Racing Hall of Fame
- Inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame
For nearly 40 years, Robert Yates worked in the sport of stock car racing, steadily and progressively building a legendary career that made him part of NASCAR history. Yates officially retired from team ownership in November 2007, however, retirement was brief. In 2010, Robert Yates Racing Engines formed and the company was named the exclusive provider of the NASCAR-Approved Spec Engine.
Yates has made a name for himself as one of NASCAR’s modern era top team owners, ultimately securing a NASCAR championship with driver Dale Jarrett in 1999. From the day he opened the doors of Robert Yates Racing (RYR) for business in 1988, Yates used his secret weapon to build the championship-winning organization. That secret weapon is the notorious Yates horsepower. While that horsepower made him a legend, Yates prides himself on the fact that his business started as a true family organization and continues as such today with his son, Doug, leading the engine-building efforts of the Roush Yates Racing Engines business.
Yates has been one of the circuit’s premier engine builders since the 1960s when he provided engines for legendary drivers such as Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
In 1967, Yates joined Holman-Moody Racing – Ford’s stellar factory operation – as the manager in the team’s air gauge department. He worked hard to transform bored blocks into some of the most powerful race winning engines for the Wood Brothers and Junior Johnson. That was only the beginning and he quickly progressed in the sport, joining legendary driver/car owner Junior Johnson’s racing stables in 1972 to oversee engine development. Legendary racers Yarborough and Allison were some of the early beneficiaries of Yates’ engine-building genius. Yates earned 30 wins as an engine builder from 1969 – 1975.
From 1976 to 1985, Yates provided horsepower for the DiGard Racing team for drivers including Ricky Rudd, Greg Sacks, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. It was during his tenure at DiGard that Yates served as chief engine builder for Bobby Allison’s 1983 NASCAR Championship team. Yates also served as Richard Petty’s engine builder for his 199th and 200th win and Greg Sacks’ 1985 Daytona win.
“Robert is the very best engine builder I know of anywhere. I mean ANYWHERE! Robert would work all night to get the job done and done right.” – Bobby Allison former Robert Yates Racing Driver
In early 1986, Yates briefly left racing to work on the development of Ethanol synthetic fuel. But the desire for the world of competitive auto racing was still present. It wasn’t long before Yates knew where he should be. By August, he returned to the garage area as team manager for Ranier/Lundy Racing and started his own engine business.
Almost two (2) years after joining the Ranier/Lundy Racing organization, Yates’ years of hard work under the hoods was rewarded and he was afforded the opportunity to purchase the team from its current owners. With Davey Allison’s encouragement, Yates took his career to the next level and opened the doors of Robert Yates Racing (RYR) in 1988.
Yates and his first driver Davey Allison teamed up with great success. The team contended for the championship ending up a close third in a year when the championship was decided in the closing laps of the final race. The following year, Allison was killed in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway – the first of some of the hardest times for Yates and his organization. Toward the end of the 1993 season, up-and-coming driver Ernie Irvan was tapped to become Allison’s full-time replacement. The combination of Yates and Irvan proved to be a competitive one as the No. 28 Yates-owned team battled back and forth through the first half of the year with the late Dale Earnhardt for the 1994 championship. A fateful crash at Michigan, however, ended Irvan’s quest for the title and once again left Yates searching for a replacement.
“I worked for several owners, but Robert Yates was the most well rounded of them all! He understood every aspect of a race car and a race team. He understood the car, the engine, strategy and the business side of it as well. You would never know he was the owner because he was always with us in the trenches just being one of the guys. Robert Yates taught me so much about winning, losing and about life in general. He was and is the ultimate owner, racer and friend!” – Larry McReynolds former Roush Yates Racing Crew Chef
“I enjoyed my time at Robert Yates Racing. We were always serious about racing and serious about winning races, especially Robert. He is the type of person that is always there for you. When I got hurt he came to visit me and told me that he would have a car ready for me when I was ready to go back racing. And he did. NASCAR took a lot of stock in what Robert told them about me and they allowed me back into racing. I have Robert to thank for having such a long career as a race car driver. I’m very proud to be a friend of Robert Yates and one of his previous race car drivers.“ – Ernie Irvan former Robert Yates Racing NASCAR driver
That replacement would end up being the son of a NASCAR legend who hailed from the small town of Hickory, N.C. Dale Jarrett and Yates teamed up for the first time in 1995. After a fairly successful first season together, Yates decided he wanted to hold on to the talent of Jarrett, and decided to expand his organization into a two-car operation. Jarrett began piloting the No. 88 car in 1996 and quickly proved to the racing world that Yates instincts were validated by winning both the Busch Clash and the Daytona 500. Yates was able to capture his first Winston Cup Championship with Jarrett behind the wheel in 1999.
“From the very first day I walked into the Robert Yates Racing Shop I learned that Robert knew every aspect and detail of his shop from the broom handle to board room. Robert Yates was the smartest person in the racing industry from being the premier engine builder, to aerodynamics, to chassis knowledge. He was the every and all of NASCAR racing competition and racing operations. And tremendously respected as such.” – Dale Jarrett – former Robert Yates Racing NASCAR Driver
The start of the 2000 season began with Yates fielding cars for two of NASCAR’s most talented veterans in Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd. From 2000 to 2002, Jarrett and Rudd combined for 11 NASCAR wins, 71 top fives and 114 top 10s. The teammates in the top 10 in driver point standings all three seasons – solidifying Robert Yates Racing’s spot among the most successful teams in NASCAR history.
In 2003, Yates hired the talent of a young driver by the name of Elliott Sadler. Sadler was teamed with Jarrett in the hopes he would be able to take advantage of Jarrett’s expertise as a mindful veteran. Sadler started 2004 with a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, and six races later won at Texas Motor Speedway. He stayed in the top-10 in points all season, and won at California Speedway. He made the Chase, and finished a career high ninth in the championship standings. In 2005, Sadler clinched four poles. He finished 13th in points. In 2006, Sadler won the pole position at Talladega.
“Robert was a good owner and a great friend. I looked to him as a father figure while racing and his will to win always trickled down through the shop. His passion was second to none.” – Elliott Sadler – former Robert Yates Racing NASCAR Driver
Robert Yates and Jack Roush spent decades as rivals in business and racing before deciding to team up in 2004 with Ford’s support. The resulting company, Roush Yates Engines is an alliance of these two racing legends. The joining of forces has proved to be a winning formula. The awesome power of these two engine builders turned into immediate success with the winning of the 2004 Nextel Cup championship and 19 Nextel Cup race wins in the first year and a half after teaming up.
In August 2006, David Gilliland replaced Elliott Sadler as the driver of the M&M’s Ford. On October 7, he qualified on the pole for at Talladega, the first pole of his career.
In 2007, Ricky Rudd returned to Yates’ team to drive the No. 88 Ford full-time. On February 11, 2007 at Daytona International Speedway, both of Yates’ cars qualified on the front row for the Daytona 500. David Gilliland qualified on the pole with Rudd was alongside in second.
“Robert contributed a lot to racing with his knowledge and determination. He is a great racer and displayed good ethics along the way. Robert Yates built the prettiest sounding engines you’ll ever hear. They ran free & effortless with the highest RPM’s. They were Amazing and Powerful!” – Leonard Wood former NASCAR crew chief, engine builder and co-founder of Wood Brothers Racing
Since RYR’s inception in 1988, Yates’ two-car team proved to be one of the most invincible opponents in the NASCAR garage. As a team owner, you want to win therefore you work hard. On September 7, 2007, Robert Yates announced his retirement as President of Robert Yates Racing following the last race of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. Yates continued with his joint ownership of Roush Yates Racing Engines as well as other ventures. In September 2009, Yates sold his share of Roush Yates Engines to his son, Doug Yates.
In 2010, a new business brought Robert Yates out of retirement and back into NASCAR to form Robert Yates Racing Engines. The company was named the exclusive North American provider of the NASCAR-Approved Spec Engine. Robert Yates Racing Engines offers the Spec Engine for purchase either as a kit or fully assembled, dyno operation as well as a complete list of replacement parts or engine maintenance services for any existing or future customer. Currently, the NASCAR-Approved Spec Engine is an alternative in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and select tracks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Birth date: April 19, 1943
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
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