Rockingham II: Ford - Robert Yates interview

This Week in Ford Racing November 4, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Taurus, has an opportunity to clinch his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship and the first for car owner Jack Roush at this weekend's Pop...

This Week in Ford Racing
November 4, 2003

NASCAR Winston Cup

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Taurus, has an opportunity to clinch his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship and the first for car owner Jack Roush at this weekend's Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway. Roush, who has been a full-time car owner in the series since 1988, would join Robert Yates as the only active Ford championship car owners in the modern era. Yates talked about what he went through on the road to Dale Jarrett's title in 1999 and offered some insight as to what Roush might be feeling at this stage of the season.

ROBERT YATES, Car Owner - No. 88 and No. 38 Ford Tauruses --

YOU WON CHAMPIONSHIPS BEFORE BECOMING A TEAM OWNER. WHAT WERE SOME OF YOUR MEMORABLE MOMENTS? "I was on Bobby Allison's championship team in '83 and it seemed I was always on a team that ended up making rule changes. In 1972 we finished first or second 22 times and lost the championship. We won 10 races and finished second 12 times and Benny Parsons beat us and I don't think he had a win, so that changed the rules. In '79, Richard Petty came down leading the last race and Darrell (Waltrip) always reminds me that I cost him the championship by pulling too tall of a gear. He'll tell you that to this day, but we missed it by a couple of points. We were so close. In '82 I think we had a 300-point lead in September and lost a bunch of engines the last few races, so I know how to give them up. In '92 we were rolling away early and then wrecked a few times, but never had an engine failure or a mechanical failure that year. We were on our way and it came down to where we were leading going into the last race, but that's when the 4 car blew a tire. We were sitting there just trying to stay out of everybody's way to win it that year and we didn't."

SO YOU'VE HAD YOUR SHARE OF HEARTBREAK MUCH LIKE JACK HAS.

"I know how to lose a championship because I've been second quite a few times, but they're hard to come by. There's a lot of weight on your shoulders when you get down to the end. I'd love to be in that position right now, but there's a lot of additional stress that goes into planning and selecting what you're gonna run - things like gear selection and how you tune the motor. It's probably easier when you're just having fun and running good, but when things start winding down and if it's tight, there's a lot of stress. If you've got engines out there and a couple of them have problems, then you're really stressed because the odds are it's gonna happen to every engine if the same parts are in them. Jack came so close. He should have won it and could have won it and didn't. I know there was a year where we actually gave him a car and an engine for the last race. The engine was right, but the car was wrong. We had a new car that was way wrong for Atlanta, but I think he could have won that championship then because that's how close he was. That might have been the year they called him for a spacer that was an eighth of an inch too thick or something like that. It wasn't something that gave them a performance advantage, but they got caught for that and it cost them the championship. Jack has certainly paid his dues and been in the hunt. I knew it was gonna happen eventually for him, and I think now is the time."

WHAT WAS THE MOST OVERWHELMING FEELING YOU HAD WHEN YOU FINALLY WON IN '99?

"I said it then and I'll say it again, I felt like I contributed more to the '83 championship because I was more involved in the decisions. That was maybe even a sweeter win working as a mechanic or engine builder because you were working on the car and felt like you accomplished a lot. Even though I had some calls and decisions in '99, I didn't have quite the same feeling. I could put my car owner hat on and say, 'That's just my business. I've got a championship. It's got value. It looks good on my resume,' but I didn't have as much input that I had in '83 where I built every engine and felt like a larger part of the team. In '99 I felt more happy for the guys because I knew how it felt for those who had contributed, so it's a different feeling. I'm saying this because the team members that build and contribute and make decisions and do all that hard work really get rewarded because it boosts your self-esteem and makes you feel good. As an owner, there's not a race or anything better than winning a championship, but it really means a lot to each and every individual that works on that team. You say, 'Well, Jack Roush won,' but there are days when Jack Roush probably had more input into the win. I know he has a great influence on what goes on there and makes a lot of calls. I'm not trying to knock it for a car owner because it's great for business and it's a still very rewarding, but I think the team really wins. The guys that work on those things night and day and live with it, I think they get an awesome feeling just contributing to a win. That's the team concept and the whole team has value. I think when you really pay all your dues and you've come close to the top so many times, when you finally get there it's sweeter because it was so hard."

EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY NOT HAVE AS MUCH TO DO WITH THE CAR OR RACE-DAY CALLS, YOU MADE THE DECISION ON THE PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR YOU, SO IS IT A DIFFERENT KIND OF SATISFACTION?

"I never got in this thing to be the car owner and I still don't get revved up over it as much as I did when I had something to do. I know when I do put my financial hat on or my owner hat on, I don't wear it with as much pride as the one I wore when I actually did stuff - the guy who slaved all night on an engine or just came up with ideas to make the car better or jumped over the wall to jack the car up. The championship we won in '83 was really a nervous deal because it went down to the last race. It was as nerve-wracking as it could possibly get. I guess that's why winning that year was so sweet because there was some serious competition between a guy I had worked for in Junior Johnson and we wanted to beat that team really bad. When we won it in '99, I just remember letting out a big breath because I couldn't believe it actually happened to us. We were really wringing it out pretty good. We were not on a coast mode at the end of that deal. We ran hard and there was a lot of stress because it wasn't one of those things where we sailed through and never had a problem. The numbers just added up. I remember in '83 that every time we cranked an engine we would worry about the alternator quitting before we got it on pit road. Your heart pounded every time the engine turned over, but when you're a car owner you don't quite see those connecting rods flying around because you're a little more removed. Don't get me wrong, winning a championship as a car owner is awesome, but of the two championships I know about, I felt a bigger part of '83 than '99 because I felt more involved, but it's a big deal and a big carrot chase. I remember Todd (Parrott, crew chief) was so confident in '99. He made a lot of calls that I would have been too conservative with, but I think it's hard to win these things being conservative. I think maybe that was my problem with the championships we lost. I'm sure Jack is extremely proud of his group and they've done a good job. You've got to finish well and you've got to stay out of trouble. You need a little luck to go along with that, too, but it's a big deal. It's tough enough to win one race, but to put the entire deal together means you have to have your act together. I do think that the more you miss out on winning championships and the more you give them up, the sweeter it is when you finally win it. This is gonna be good for Jack Roush."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Benny Parsons , Junior Johnson , Bobby Allison , Jack Roush , Robert Yates