Master engine builder and longtime NASCAR team owner Robert Yates died late Monday.
Yates, 74, a Charlotte native who lived most recently in Cornelius, was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.
The Charlotte Observer reported earlier this year that he was battling liver cancer. Yates received his cancer diagnosis late in 2016 and immediately began treatment. But the cancer had been too advanced for chemotherapy to eradicate.
His company, Roush Yates Engines, tweeted out that he died surrounded by family and loved ones.
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As a NASCAR team owner, he won a Cup championship, three Daytona 500 victories and the reputation as perhaps the sport’s most innovative and successful engine builder.
Doug Yates of Charlotte, who runs the company he co-founded with his father, wrote on Twitter late Monday night: “My Dad and Hero, Robert Yates, has passed and is with the Lord.”
The elder Yates had endured multiple rounds of immunotherapy treatment before his death, it was reported.
Doug Yates said on Twitter that his father was a visionary and a mentor.
“My dad’s the toughest guy you’ve ever met,” he told NASCAR.com. “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.”
NASCAR figures took to social media to recognized Yates’ contributions to the sport.
“He was a great man. Hero to many,” tweeted Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“An amazing leader and pioneer of our sport...sending prayers for Doug and family,” tweeted NASCAR driver Joey Logano. “We will do our best to continue Robert’s legacy.”
“Our sport lost one of the most inventive minds and kindest personalities in Robert Yates,” four-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart told ESPN.com. “I’m glad I got to know him and proud our race team was able to honor him this year at Darlington.”
Speedway Motor Sports President Marcus Smith issued a statement Tuesday calling Yates a groundbreaking engine builder and “pioneer of the sport.”
“We’re proud...Robert enjoyed significant success at Charlotte Motor Speedway – his home track – including five NASCAR Cup Series points wins and an unforgettable victory in the 1992 NASCAR All-Star Race,” said Smith.
The Roush Yates Engines web page says Yates’ career started at Holman Moody Racing. He quickly became an engine building genius, assembling winning engines for NASCAR’s greatest drivers, including Hall of Fame drivers Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip.
In 1988 with the emerging of young driver Davey Allison, Yates sold everything he owned to purchase Ranier-Lundy Racing, said Roush Yates. As a car owner, he won his first race in 1989 at Talladega with Davey Allison in the driver’s seat. Together they would go on to win 15 of Yates’ 57 career wins as an owner in NASCAR’s elite division.
Eventually, Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett joined Robert Yates Racing as they expanded into a two car team. The team of Jarrett and Yates would bring 29 NASCAR Cup races including two Daytona 500 wins and two Brickyard 400 wins.
In 1999, Robert Yates Racing captured the crown jewel of NASCAR by winning the Championship.
The Observer reported in February that liver cancer was just the latest health challenge faced by Yates. He has suffered from rheumatic fever, sustained a life-altering concussion when he was 8, then another potentially fatal blow to the head three years ago.
Born in 1943, Robert and his twin brother Richard were the youngest of nine children born to John Clyde Yates and his wife V.C. They were raised on The Plaza, across the street from the VanLandingham Estate and near Allen Street Baptist Church, where John Clyde was minister.
Born: April 19, 1943
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Car Owner Wins: 57
Total Engine Builder and Car Owner Wins: 134
Daytona 500 Wins: 3 (1992, 1996, & 2000)
Championships: 2 (1983 & 1999)