Robert Yates, who was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame months after a liver cancer diagnosis, died Monday at the age of 74.
His son, Doug, announced his death Monday evening.
My Dad and Hero, Robert Yates, has passed and is with the Lord. Thanks for all the prayers and support. pic.twitter.com/hxa0wfdZkE— Doug Yates (@Yates_Doug) October 3, 2017
Yates received his cancer diagnosis late in 2016 and immediately began treatment. But the cancer had been too advanced for chemotherapy to eradicate.
Yates got the call to the NASCAR Hall in May of 2017 and was gaunt from his cancer treatments. The Charlotte native still made the trip to the Uptown museum to hear his name announced as a member of the 2018 class. That Hall of Fame class will be inducted in January.
One of nine children born to Rev. John Clyde Yates and his wife, Robert Yates got into drag racing as a teenager. He moved to the Raleigh area before high school and attended Wake Forest High School before obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering from Wilson Technical College in 1964.
Then he started to build racecar engines, and he was good at it.
He built the engines that gave Bobby Allison the horsepower to win a Premier Series championship in 1983 with DiGard Racing. Yates also built race-winning engines for a number of NASCAR drivers and later, as an owner, won a Cup Series championship and three Daytona 500s.
Together with team owner Jack Roush, Yates formed Roush Yates Engines to produce the muscle for Ford stock cars. Roush joined forces with Yates and his son, Doug, to form Roush Yates Engines in 2005.
As a team owner, Yates won a total of 57 races, including the 1999 championship with Dale Jarrett, who behind the wheel for two of Yates’ three Daytona 500 victories.
A beloved storyteller, Yates had his roots with engine manufacturer Holman Moody in the 1960s.
Yates purchased his first race team from Harry Ranier in 1988 and owned the Robert Yates Racing Team until 2007 when he retired and gave the company over to his son.
He expanded from one car to two in 1996 with Ernie Irvan driving the No. 28 car and Jarrett in his iconic 88. Elliott Sadler joined Robert Yates Racing in 2003 and won a pair of races the following year.
Robert Yates Racing was known for its strong engine performances, especially on superspeedways. Drivers employed by the Robert Yates Racing over the years were Irvan, Jarrett, Davey Allison, Robby Gordon, Lake Speed, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland and Paul Menard.
Following his election to the Hall of Fame, Doug Yates organized a reunion of about 250 people affiliated with the Robert Yates Racing Team, which shut down following the 2009 season. Yates partnered with his son-in-law, Chris Davy, to form Robert Yates Racing Engines in 2010.
“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,” Jarrett said when Yates was elected to the Hall of Fame. “He was the every and all of NASCAR racing competition and racing operations. And tremendously respected as such.”