Charlotte, NC — Robert Yates, a master engine builder and longtime NASCAR team owner, died Monday October 2 at age 74.
In May, Yates was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. He had been battling liver cancer, requiring multiple rounds of immunotherapy treatment.
Yates’ expansive know-how as a mechanic led his cars to 77 wins in NASCAR’s premier series as an engine builder. After creating Robert Yates Racing in 1989 following his purchase of the Ranier-Lundy operation, Yates went on to collect 57 more victories and 48 pole positions as a team owner, adding a series championship for fellow Hall inductee Dale Jarrett in 1999.
Equipped with a degree in mechanical engineering from Wilson Technical College, Yates broke into the sport with the elite Holman-Moody organization, the Ford factory powerhouse, in 1967.
Yates later worked alongside Junior Johnson, forming a partnership that resulted in 30 wins from 1969-75. That tenure included LeeRoy Yarbrough’s only Daytona 500 victory, the first of five triumphs for Yates as an engine builder and team owner in The Great American Race. Yates then transitioned to DiGard Racing for a 10-year association that produced Bobby Allison’s lone major-league championship.
After two years with Ranier-Lundy, Yates dove into the world of team ownership. Driver Davey Allison made the jump with him, continuing their relationship as Robert Yates Racing was formed. Allison scored 15 of his 19 premier-series victories from that point forward, including a triumph in the 1992 Daytona 500.
In addition to Allison and Jarrett, Yates fielded cars for Ernie Irvan, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, David Gilliland and others. He retired from team ownership after the 2007 season, turning his attention to the engine-building company founded by his son, Doug. Now named Roush Yates Engines, that organization continues to power all Ford-backed entries in NASCAR’s top division.
Yates’ selection to the NASCAR Hall is the most recent recognition of his achievements in motorsports. Yates was given the Bill France Award of Excellence in 2000, and in 2007 received the Buddy Shuman Award for Lifetime Achievement in NASCAR.