RICHMOND, Va. – Doug Yates learned NASCAR from his father, and with Robert Yates retiring and handing his company off at the end of this season, his son is already making changes he thinks will bring about a resurgence for the organization.
For one, the younger Yates is ditching a partnership his father was pursuing with Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing team from the Champ Car series and aligning the two Yates teams with Roush Fenway Racing, the top-performing Ford teams in the series.
“I felt like an alignment with Roush Racing was a better fit for me, and my company, and my relationship with Jack in the past,” Doug Yates said Saturday, “and I felt like it was a better road for success for Yates Racing in the future.”
Right now, that road to success is uphill.
Yates won the championship in 1999 with Dale Jarrett, but has faded in the standings since. In the last four years, as competition has increased, only Elliott Sadler in 2004 has finished in the top 10 in season point standings, and he was ninth.
Roush Racing, which fields five teams in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Series, will provide full support to the two teams owned by Yates Racing, including hardware, engineering, marketing and operational practices, beginning on Dec. 1, 2007, Yates said.
Roush, which will be forced to field no more than four cars by 2010, will move its fifth team into the Yates stable, said Geoff Smith, president of the Roush Fenway team.
“Clearly one of our motivations is we need to have a home for our fifth car and we don’t have to have that home for a couple of years, so we’re going to build and make this work and then we’re going to take that step,” Smith said before the race.
Yates, whose father was traveling with his wife for the weekend and celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary, gave his blessing to the alliance, Doug Yates said.
Founded in 1989, Robert Yates Racing won 57 races, including three Daytona 500s, 48 poles and the 1999 championship. Its drivers included Dave Allison and Ernie Irvan.
The team’s current drivers are Rudd and David Gilliland, and with Rudd retiring at the end of this season, Travis Kvapil will take over the No. 88 car next season.
He said the chance to be part of what he expects will be a quick turnaround for the Yates teams as they benefit from the relationship with the Roush organization.
“I realized during my two seasons in Cup that if I was going to get another shot at Cup racing that I definitely wanted to do it with a powerful team that had the resources and the backing and the engineering behind it to be competitive, and I definitely feel like this is the perfect spot,” the former driver for Cal Wells said.
With Wells, Kvapil felt that his team was underfunded and unable to compete.
The Yates teams, though, are both still seeking sponsorship for next season, and Doug Yates said Roush Fenway will also be helpful in that pursuit.
The relationship is sure to raise questions about whether Roush’s involvement will circumvent the cap on cars a team can own, but Smith doesn’t anticipate problems.
“They have rules, and they’ve articulated those rules, they’re clearly in the rule book and they’ve clearly been stated to us in person to person visits,” he said, calling the deal “clearly within everything they’ve been approving for eons.”
Powerhouse organizations like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing also have agreements under which they provide support to other smaller organizations.
Doug Yates said the plan has NASCAR President Mike Helton’s blessing.
“We called Mike this week and we talked to him and said, ‘Listen, Robert is going to back down. Doug wants to take it forward. And Mike blessed that,” Yates said.
At the top, Yates said he’ll lead differently than his laid-back father.
“I would probably say I have a bit of my mom’s personality – probably a little bit more straightforward,” he said.
“This is a business and this is a competitive playing field, so if you’re going to be here, you’ve got to be aggressive and you have to go after things that are going to make yourself competitive.”