Robert Yates’ lifetime dedication to NASCAR to be honored
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It took four times on the ballot for Robert Yates to be elected to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. When he finally received enough votes, the championship-winning car owner and engine builder burst into tears.
“He gave up his life for this sport. That was his choice but that was what it takes to be great at something and he did that,” said Doug Yates, who succeeded his father in their engine business.
Yates was in a grueling fight with liver cancer when he was elected last May following a vote at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When his name was announced, he was mobbed by supporters thrilled for another tribute for one of NASCAR’s stalwarts.
“It was the most gratifying moment of his whole career,” Doug Yates said.
Yates died five months later at the age of 74, and his family will represent him Friday night as he’s posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame along with Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Ken Squier.
Yates started as an engine builder who learned from Waddell Wilson and Junior Johnson. He built the powerplants for Bobby Allison’s 1983 Cup championship team, and the engines used when Richard Petty drove to the 199th and 200th victories — his last — of his career. As a team owner, Yates won a championship with Dale Jarrett in 1999. Davey Allison won Yates his first race as a car owner in 1989. Yates won 57 Cup races as an owner, including three Daytona 500 victories with Allison and Jarrett.
“I’d say my dad felt very blessed to be involved in the sport of NASCAR and the time he was involved really lent itself to opportunities,” Doug Yates said.
Also going into the Hall of Fame on Friday night are:
He was NASCAR’s first crowned champion in the Modified Series and Strictly Stock Series, which is now called the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Byron served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. He suffered a severe injury to his left leg while flying in a combat mission and later had to wear a specially created steel leg brace while racing. A version of the brace, which had to be attached to the clutch pedal of his race cars, is mounted in one of his cars displayed in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He led Jeff Gordon to three of Gordon’s four championships and changed NASCAR with innovation, a focus on fast pit stops and engineering. Evernham was crew chief of the famed “Rainbow Warriors” when Gordon won 47 races in seven seasons. Evernham then transitioned into a team owner and spearheaded Dodge Motorsports’ return to NASCAR in 2001. Hall of Famer Bill Elliott earned Evernham Motorsports its inaugural victory that season, and Evernham collected 15 wins as a team owner.
RON HORNADAY JR.
He is a four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. He also won four times in the Xfinity Series and finished third in that series’ 2004 championship. He is known for helping young racers make their way to North Carolina to attempt a career in NASCAR. Many racers, including future Cup champions Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, came from California and lived on Hornaday’s couch as they chased rides.
The co-founder of the Motor Racing Network and a longtime voice of the sport, Squier is the first broadcaster to be elected to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. He worked NASCAR’s flag-to-flag network television debut in the 1979 Daytona 500. He had co-founded MRN in 1969 before moving to television. He’s also credited with helping develop the sport’s first “in-car camera” now widely used in today’s telecasts.
More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/