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Memories of Robert Yates

NASCAR Nation lost an icon Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in legendary team owner and engine builder Robert Yates after an approximate year-long battle with liver cancer. RIP and Godspeed, Mr. Yates; you’ll be dearly missed.

I was late onto the NASCAR scene compared to some, early compared to others. I became a fan of the sport, first, with that passion, eventually, leading to a writing career in the sport. I became a NASCAR fan in the late 90s, with the first race I paid especially close attention to being a post-race exhibition race in Japan. It was the first time the father/son duo of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced against each other.

My first full season as a NASCAR fan was 1999. It just so happens, that was the same season Robert Yates Racing won its then-Winston Cup Series driver championship with another Dale — Dale Jarrett — behind the wheel of the No. 88 Ford. So, obviously, that’s my earliest memory of Robert Yates.

At times, that season seems like just yesterday, but to illustrate just how long ago it was — the 1999 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year was a young Tony Stewart. But I digress, now that I’ve made myself feel old.

Anyway, back to 1999. Jarrett won four races out of 34 behind the wheel of the No. 88 Ford that season. He also finished in the top-five 24 times and was in the top-10 at the checkered flag of all but five races that season.

I’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve heard from fans and those in the sport who new Yates personally. A lot of the stories make me wish I became a fan of the sport sooner. Sounds like I sure missed out on a lot. I regret I wasn’t a follower in the days of Davey Allison in the No. 28 Robert Yates Racing Ford. I find it kind of ironic that Yates built the engine that powered Bobby Allison to his first of three Daytona 500 wins in 1978. And a year after Davey Allison drove the No. 28 RYR Ford to a second-place finish to his dad, Bobby, when the elder Allison third and final Daytona 500 in 1988, Yates returned to Daytona as the owner of the No. 28 and young Davey as his driver.

Davey got his own Daytona 500 win in 1992, in that No. 28 RYR Ford. And Yates got a couple more wins in the Great American Race in 1996 and 2000, courtesy of Jarrett.

My real Yates-related regret is that the legend didn’t make it long enough for his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction, coming January 2017. Fortunately, though, he was able to experience the joy of finding out he would be inducted back in May. That makes the pill not quite so hard to swallow.

That being said, my condolences go to Yates’ son, Doug Yates, who is carrying on the family business of NASCAR engine building, and the rest of the fine Yates family.

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Posted by on October 3, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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