Robert Yates, a NASCAR Cup champion car owner and innovative engine builder who once was told by a college professor that he wouldn't amount to anything because he spent his time working on vehicles and not studying, died Monday. He was 74.
Selected in May as part of the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, Yates won the 1999 NASCAR Cup title with driver Dale Jarrett. His Robert Yates Racing team compiled 57 wins and 48 poles from 1989 to 2007.
His son, Doug Yates, followed in his father's footsteps, and he operates Roush Yates Engines.
My Dad and Hero, Robert Yates, has passed and is with the Lord. Thanks for all the prayers and support. pic.twitter.com/hxa0wfdZkE— Doug Yates (@Yates_Doug) October 3, 2017
"He was a leader and inspired everyone around him to do their best and to take it to a new level," Doug Yates said in a post by Roush Yates Engines.
Robert Yates had battled liver cancer for about a year.
"God created me," Yates said in August. "He'll fix me. If He needs me, He'll take me. I've got a lot to be thankful for."
The North Carolina native began building engines for Junior Johnson in 1971. He built the engines used by Bobby Allison to win the 1983 Cup title. Yates also won three Daytona 500s as a car owner -- in 1992 with Davey Allison as well as in 1996 and 2000 with Jarrett.
"He worked in every facet of the shop," Jarrett said in an interview in May. "We knew what a great job he did building engines, but he could work on the chassis, work on aerodynamics, [and] spent many hours with us in the wind tunnel."
Known for his work ethic and his love for racing, Yates had an impact on many in the NASCAR community.
Robert Yates was a good man, incredible engine builder, my thoughts and prayers are with Carolyn and Doug, RIP my dear old friend!— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) October 3, 2017
An amazing leader and pioneer of our sport...sending prayers for @Yates_Doug & family. We will do our best to continue Robert's legacy.— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) October 3, 2017
"Our sport lost one of the most inventive minds and kindest personalities in Robert Yates," said four-time NASCAR Cup champion driver Tony Stewart, whose Stewart-Haas Racing uses Roush Yates Engines. "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."
Yates had a long relationship with Ford Motor Co.
"First and foremost an engine guy, Robert will be remembered as a person who helped build the sport with dedication and hard work," said Edsel B. Ford II. "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."
NASCAR Chairman Brian France, in a statement, said Yates had the respect of the entire industry.
"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," France said.