Long considered one of NASCAR's leading minds in horsepower, Robert Yates has also made a name for himself as one of NASCAR's top team owners.
Since he first entered the car owner arena in 1989, Yates-owned teams have combined to produce one NASCAR championship, 56 wins, and 40 poles. From Yates' humble beginnings to owner of a NASCAR empire, his secret ingredient for success has remained the same - horsepower. And nobody knows horsepower better than Yates.
Yates has been one of the circuit's premier engine builders for more than 30 years, providing engines for legendary drivers like Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. After years of hard work under the hoods of these powerful machines, Yates took his career to the next level in 1988 when he purchased his own race team, opening the doors of Robert Yates Racing (RYR).
Since RYR's inception in 1988, the now two-car team has proven to be one of the most invincible opponents in the NASCAR garage. Yates' multi-car organization fields entries in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series with the #88 UPS Ford and driver Dale Jarrett and the #38 M&M's® Ford with driver Elliott Sadler. In 2005, Yates will also field a NASCAR Busch Series entry with the #90 CitiFinancial Ford with both Jarrett and Sadler sharing the driving duties.
Before Yates distinguished himself as one of the circuit's top team owners, he had some seat time of his own, behind the wheel of a drag car. In 1959, Yates competed as a drag racer at Shuffletown Dragway just north of Charlotte. While his driving career didn't last very long, it did intensify his desire to work in racing.
In 1968, Yates joined Holman-Moody Racing - one of the most successful teams at that time - as the manager in the team's air gauge department. That was only the beginning for Yates. From there, he joined Junior Johnson's stables to oversee engine development. Now legendary racers Yarborough and Allison were some of the early beneficiaries of Yates' engine-building genius.
From 1976-1986, 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.
In 1986, Yates briefly left racing to work on the development of synthetic fuel. But the desire for the world of competitive auto racing was still there. It wasn't long before Yates knew where he should be. In August, he returned to the garage area as team manager for Ranier/Lundy Racing. Almost exactly two years later, Yates purchased the team.
Yates and his first driver Davey Allison teamed up with great success. In 1992, the team contended for the championship before ending up a close third in a year when the championship was decided in the closing laps of the final race. However, the following year, Allison was killed in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway - the first of some of the hardest times for Robert Yates Racing. 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 #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. That replacement would end up being the son of a NASCAR legend who hailed from the small town of Hickory, N.C.
In 1995, Dale Jarrett and Yates teamed up for the first time. 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. In 1996, Jarrett piloted the #88 Fords and proved to the racing world what a genius Yates was as the #88 team started the year off by winning the annual Busch Clash as well as the Daytona 500. Jarrett eventually delivered Yates his first Winston Cup Series championship in 1999.
The start of the 2000 season began with Yates fielding cars for two of NASCAR's most talented veterans in 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 followed the trend that had started spreading throughout the NASCAR garage and hired the talent of a young driver by the name of Elliott Sadler. An up-and-coming driver, Sadler was teamed with Jarrett in the hopes of being able to take advantage of Sadler's youthful approach to NASCAR racing and Jarrett's prowess as a cagey veteran. For the third year, Jarrett and Sadler will team up and look to compete for the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship in the hopes of securing a second championship for RYR.
"Winning and performing well is a good feeling," Yates said. "You want to win, so you work hard. You've got to be smart enough, but a lot of it is about having opportunity - doing all the right things and juggling all the right balls. We have the opportunity, now we just have to capitalize on it in 2005."
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