Robert Yates, a renowned engine builder and NASCAR Cup Series champion team owner died Monday after losing his battle with liver cancer. He was 74. His son, Doug Yates, president and CEO of Roush Yates Engines, announced his father’s passing Monday night, onTwitter.
“My Dad and Hero, Robert Yates, has passed and is with the Lord. Thanks for all the prayers and support.”
“Hero — my dad’s my hero,” his son said. “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.”
In May, Yates was in attendance for his selection as an inductee into the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame, winning 94 percent of the votes. The emotion was evident in his voice as he said, “I don’t even know if I’ll sleep tonight. 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.”
At the induction announcement, Yates also recalled a former professor saying, “Robert Yates will never amount to anything. He’s working on a tractor instead of studying.”
However, his expertise as a mechanic would lead to 77 victories as an engine builder. Yates made the move to NASCAR in 1971, working with Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. His engines powered Cale Yarborough’s cars and propelled Bobby Allison to a Cup Series championship title in 1983 for DiGard Racing.
Yates’ 21-year career as a NASCAR Premier Series team owner began in 1989 where he went on to capture 57 wins, 49 poles and 270 top-five finishes. In 1999, he won the Cup Series championship with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett. Yates fielded cars for Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, David Gilliland, Paul Menard and more. He won three Daytona 500s, one with Allison in 1992 and two with Jarrett, in 1996 and 2000.
Yates will be missed in the NASCAR community, not only for his contributions to the sports but for the personal impact he made on the lives he touched.
As three-time Cup Champion Tony Stewart said, “Our sport lost one of the most inventive minds and kindest personalities in Robert Yates. 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.”
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