Robert Yates, owner of the No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Fusions driven by David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd, will officially retire at the end of tomorrow's Ford 400. Yates spoke about his favorite memories and his plans for the future on Saturday...
Robert Yates, owner of the No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Fusions driven by David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd, will officially retire at the end of tomorrow's Ford 400. Yates spoke about his favorite memories and his plans for the future on Saturday at Homestead Miami Speedway.
ROBERT YATES, Owner -- RYR Ford Fusions
WHAT EMOTIONS DO YOU HAVE ONE DAY BEFORE YOUR LAST RACE? "I'm very mixed. I probably cry about 50 percent of the time and get excited about the things I could possibly do and get excited about. I still have to get through tomorrow. In my life, I've never quit a job at the end of the year. When my heart goes away, my tail sort of leaves. It's hard to keep your tail in this deal when your heart is gone, and I think that my heart is gonna miss it. I've watched this my entire life. There are times when you can run over that old guy in front of you or he's stopping to move over. When it's all said and done, I've had 40 wonderful years working on cars and I've enjoyed every day."
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT THIS LAST WEEKEND? "I remember when there wasn't anybody around with a stopwatch and they would all come to me and ask me how the car was running. I had to get pretty good at it because I was the official timer. Crew chiefs had some stopwatches, but they had their own speed on their watch. They clocked their own cars and it was usually a little bit quicker, but that was a role. I would come down and say, 'Good corner,' or 'That's a good setup. This is gonna work or this is gonna last longer.' I enjoyed working on the car. The fun part was when we got to Victory Lane, it was because we all worked together for ourselves, by ourselves, with ourselves and we all got there. It's still a big event to win, but it's time for me to go where I can contribute something. I want to be able to enjoy the day, pass the time and be busy. I don't know what that is, but they don't need me to clock cars on top because they've got all the computers to put everything down for them. There was a time when this was valuable and important information, but it's past me now."
YOU'VE EXPEREINCED EVERY EMOTION A PERSON CAN IN THIS SPORT. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT STANDS OUT? "I enjoyed the few different jobs that I had. I enjoyed working with the people. I learned so much. I modeled a lot after different people. I had my heroes, whether they drove cars or were mechanics. I learned a lot working for and with those people. I just enjoyed every day. There were times when I thought, 'Man, this is really bad,' but I think that we could pretty much say, being a mechanic, that stuff didn't fall off the engines, didn't fall off the car and I did it with my eyes open. I think I was an excellent mechanic. I think the best way to sum up my life is that as a kid I wanted to drive the vehicle and like a lot of people, I wanted to be the quarterback or the driver. When it's all said and done, I think I had just as much fun not filling that role. I think I had just as much joy working on Darrell Waltrip's car as he did driving it, and I feel good about it. The thing I would echo back to the people that come along is that there's a position for everybody. You could be 509th out of 510 in your school and still do well in life. I certainly know a lot of guys who didn't get the best formal education, but certainly enjoyed a great life in a manufacturing role. I think as we look at our country and how we sort of try to get our kids to all be quarterbacks or drivers, we should remember that there is plenty of room for people to do other jobs. I enjoyed doing those jobs and wouldn't change it again. However, if I could have driven I think I would have been a good one, but I have no complaints. I'd do it again in a minute if I was 20 years old again."
IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN 1999 AS A CAR OWNER YOUR HIGH POINT? "The championship in 1983 was a pretty big one. We'd run second so many years with different teams and, to me, I didn't really differentiate. It made my business more solid by having that championship, but I worked probably harder for DiGard than I did for myself. I feel pretty sure that John Holman and Ralph Moody and certainly Junior Johnson knows I put my heart out for them, and to win those championships on a team that was so balanced. We had the '83 championship pretty well divided up with our resources and our people and the contributions that we made. I think in '99 it was still a team effort, but I think the more it gets later and with the way things are, you're not sure you contribute quite the same because one person has to sit at a desk all day. But I think in '83 everybody was a mechanic, everybody worked on it and everybody ran the ball. More and more, it's sort of one guy does this and one guy does that. I think Victory Lane in '83 was really good and certainly in '99 it capped my business off as a good, strong business. I have to say that, for me, as someone who never had a plan and just loved working on cars, I have to thank Henry Ford. Life is a competitive event and some people push it a little higher and some people stand out a little more than the next guy, and with the way Henry Ford pushed that race and his work ethic for manufacturing, it created a path for me. It fell right in my path being born in Charlotte and eventually getting to work in that field. As we finish up here with Ford and manufacturing and how we do things in this country, let's just keep that in mind as far as how we got here, and I think we can renew a lot of enthusiasm and energy. I need to thank the Ford family and the fans, but I think that's really how to sum up my life. I enjoyed the manufacturing and jumping over walls and changing tires and jacking. I loved all of that stuff. We didn't go to the gym, but we'd drop and do 50 push-ups and do a lot of Army-type calisthenics and that kept us all fit for Sunday. I got to do everything. I actually raced Earnhardt at Martinsville and been able to shake the cars down everywhere we went, until they made the seats to where I couldn't get in them, but I loved the cars. I got to work on every aspect of it and I don't know that anybody could have enjoyed it more than me. I think I was born at the right time in life. The cars in the fifties were just awesome. It was not just transportation, it was styling with things like convertibles and drive-in restaurants and dragging the boulevards. I'm sure there will be some great modes of transportation in the future, but I think I grew up at the perfect time for what I wanted to do and enjoyed doing. It certainly got me off the streets and made it a lot safer for the people that didn't race. I just want to say thanks to everybody. I enjoyed it and now I'll pull over and quit getting run over by these people that want to do it quicker and better and faster than I do. I'll get in the slow lane and get out of the way. I've enjoyed it. I'm gonna find something fun to do, I hope. I know NASCAR is so popular that it's hard to go anywhere in the world and get away from it, but I'll be doing something. I'm gonna try to not take a job the first day. I've never been jobless one day in my life -- not one day. When I did have to go from DiGard going out of business to the next one, I started at 5:30 that night and worked all weekend, so I've never been without a job at all. I've worried my whole life about having one. I always thought it was gonna go away, but I've been fortunate that cars have always been there and I've enjoyed it. The sun comes up and goes down and I still want more time."
-credit: ford racing