Champion owner, engine builder Robert Yates dies after battle with cancer

Robert Yates, a master engine builder and longtime NASCAR team owner, died Monday. He was 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. His son, Doug Yates, announced his father’s passing on social media Monday night.

“Hero — my dad’s my hero,” his son, Doug Yates, said in a post from his Twitter account Monday night. “My dad’s the toughest guy you’ve ever met. Never give up, always looking for the positive and looking for a competitive advantage, and that’s the way he raised myself and our family and everybody at Roush Yates.”

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 after 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.

RELATED: Drivers offer condolences, memories

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.

PHOTOS: Robert Yates’ life of racing

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.

Yates was the top vote-getter on NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day, named on 94 percent of the ballots. “I don’t even know if I’ll sleep tonight,” Yates said May 24th. “I’m so honored and I love this sport, and I want this sport to do the same thing it did for me, again and again and again.”

MORE: Yates overcome with emotion at Hall of Fame election

An outpouring of sympathy for Yates streamed in throughout the NASCAR industry.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said: “Robert Yates excelled in multiple NASCAR disciplines, earning the respect of an entire industry and an everlasting place in the hearts and minds of the NASCAR fanbase. His excellence spanned decades, from the 1983 championship powered by his engines and the 1999 title captured by the cars he owned, both of which helped earn him a deserved spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

“And though he was a master at his craft, it was Robert’s passion and character that endeared him to every single person he encountered and will ensure that his memory will live on for generations. On behalf of my family and all of NASCAR, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of a NASCAR giant, whose legacy will impact an entire industry forever.” …

Said Edsel B. Ford II, member of the board of directors, Ford Motor Company: “We at Ford are collectively saddened to have learned the news of the passing of Robert Yates. Robert, by any measure, was a valued and respected member of our family.

“His many accomplishments included winning the NASCAR championship in 1999 and being selected for the class of 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame. I am proud to have been a part of both of those events but most meaningful to me was our friendship which spanned over 20 years.

“First and foremost an engine guy, Robert will be remembered as a person who helped build the sport with dedication and hard work. His legacy at NASCAR will be defined by his roles as an engine builder, championship team owner, co-founder of Roush Yates Engines and ultimately by the innovation that he brought to all of these endeavors and more.

“Much like my great grandfather, Henry Ford, Robert was a tinkerer. They both leave behind a legion of admirers and friends who benefited from their mentorship and their passion.

“We at Ford offer our sincere condolences to Robert’s wife Carolyn, his son Doug, daughter Amy and his eight grandchildren.” …

“Robert Yates knew the value of hard work and earned everything he achieved in life,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Performance. “Not only was Robert a legendary engine builder and championship car owner, but he was a husband, father, grandfather and loyal Ford man who left an unmeasurable impact on those who knew him.

“He was a respected and valued member of the Ford family and co-founder of Roush Yates Engines, and while we’ll miss the wisdom he possessed for working on engines and race cars, we will miss his caring demeanor and friendship even more. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert’s wife, Carolyn, his two children, Doug and Amy, and his eight grandchildren.” …

Said three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart: “Our sport lost one of the most inventive minds and kindest personalities in Robert Yates. I’m glad I got to know him and proud our race team was able to honor him this year at Darlington. He leaves a strong legacy that is carried on by his son, Doug, and all of their employees at Roush Yates Engines. While Robert will certainly be missed, he will always be remembered.”