There wasn’t a person in NASCAR that Robert Yates didn’t touch in some form or fashion.
Some drove for him, like NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett. There were likely hundreds that worked for him over the years as a NASCAR Cup team owner. And there were likely hundreds more that Yates worked with early in his career as he became a top mechanic and eventually legendary engine maker.
If it was fast, Yates not only made it fast, he made it faster.
Yates passed away Monday night after a long battle with cancer at the age of 74.
Jarrett, Jeff Burton and Nate Ryan all reflected on Yates’ legacy and what he meant to them individually in Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America.
“He had a true passion for the sport,” Burton said. “The way his mind worked, I found it fascinating. … He knew exactly what he was talking about, had strong opinions about the sport, where the sport was heading and how to make the sport better.”
Added Jarrett: “He had a passion for wanting to win, to never give up. … I remember a number of times in 1999, our championship season, that things weren’t going well, but it was always ‘what can we do, what can we give you,’ always listening. He never was a driver, but you talked to Robert like he was because he understood so much of it.”
Ryan noted, “He was affable and congenial and touched a lot of people in the garage. … He was a shy person but he always said he loved working with people, and I think that’s evident of his election into the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Yates will be inducted in January). … He had the ability to relate to people, transcend NASCAR and take that to other places, as well.”
Also, if you didn’t see it, below is a touching tribute to Yates from legendary NASCAR announcer Ken Squier.