Robert Yates: 1943 - 2017

Robert Yates

Yates excelled in two aspects of NASCAR that put him among the sport’s greats – engine building and team ownership. (Photo: ISC Archives)

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Robert Yates, a legendary NASCAR engine builder and championship team owner, passed away Monday. Yates was 74 and had been battling liver cancer.

His son, Doug Yates, announced his father’s passing on Twitter Monday night saying: "My Dad and Hero...has passed and is with the Lord. Thanks for all the prayers and support."

Yates, who was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 this past May - leading the way with 94 percent of the votes, excelled in two aspects of NASCAR that put him among the sport’s greats – engine building and team ownership. 

“My dad’s the toughest guy you’ve ever met," said Doug Yates, who continues his father's legacy as an engine builder. "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, who began his career at Holman-Moody Racing in 1968, 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. In the late 1980s, Yates launched his own team, Robert Yates Racing. Success followed as an owner as Yates won a total of 57 races with Ford horsepower, including three Daytona 500s and the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series championship with Dale Jarrett, member of the 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.

“Robert Yates knew the value of hard work and earned everything he achieved in life," said Dave Pericak, Global Director of 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 unmeasurable 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.”

Stewart-Haas Racing, which made the move to Ford this past off-season, honored Yates last month with a throwback paint scheme on Danica Patrick's No. 10 Ford at Darlington Raceway that resembled Jarrett's Ford Quality Care/Ford Credit car that he won the championship with.

“Our sport lost one of the most inventive minds and kindest personalities in Robert Yates," Tony Stewart said. "I’m glad I got to know him and proud our race team was able to honor him this year at Darlington. He leaves a strong legacy that is carried on by his son, Doug, and all of their employees at Roush Yates Engines. While Robert will certainly be missed, he will always be remembered.”

In a statement, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the following:

"Robert Yates excelled in multiple NASCAR disciplines - earning the respect of an entire industry, and an everlasting place in the hearts and minds of the NASCAR fan base. His excellence spanned decades, from the 1983 championship powered by his engines and the 1999 title captured by the cars he owned, both of which helped earn him a deserved spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

"And though he was a master at his craft, it was Robert’s passion and character that endeared him to every single person he encountered and will ensure that his memory will live on for generations. On behalf of my family and all of NASCAR, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of a NASCAR giant, whose legacy will impact an entire industry forever."

Richard Petty echoed those sentiments.

"Robert dedicated his life to the sport and became one of the best at what he did," Petty said. "He is a Hall of Fame owner and engine builder. Later in my career, I was fortunate to race with his engines. He helped power me to my 200th win at Daytona, a moment I'll never forget. I'll always remember Robert for his hard work but more importantly, his friendship."

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