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Doug Yates is working toward becoming a successful car owner...just like his legendary father Robert Yates

By Mike Mulhern

   Frustration? Just talk to Doug Yates about 2008.
   The veteran engine builder, son of legendary Robert Yates, just finished up his first full season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner…and it wasn't all that pretty.
   But as this season opens Yates has two new drivers, Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard, along with Travis Kvapil, who is back for a second season with the Ford team. Labonte and Menard have sponsors, but Kvapil doesn't…..and David Gilliland, who came the closest to getting Yates a tour win, with his impressive run at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway last June, is on the sidelines hoping that Yates can find enough sponsorship dollars to put him back in a car.
   It was a rocky, frustrating and mentally aggravating season for Yates: "At one point in the season Travis was 18th in points, before the halfway point of the season, and we were running very competitively every single week…and yet we couldn't sign a full-time sponsor.
   "And then David finishes second at Infineon….and we couldn't get a sponsor.
   "Is that us? Is that the economy? What is that?
   "We never gave up the hope we could make it, but bringing in Paul Menard with a fully-sponsored car re-energized us. It was like 'Okay, now we can move on.' You build a house one brick at a time, and that was the first brick for us.
   "For Paul and his father to believe in us, that was a boost in confidence. These teams run on sponsorship dollars, and without that, to be brutally honest, we don't have a job.
   "Over the years we've had some great sponsors….but we got to the point where we didn't deserve it. Now we're trying to go back the other way with it."
   And pressure? Doug Yates knows that well too: "What puts a lot of pressure on me is my dad had a very successful team…and I haven't had that yet. I'm hearing 'How can a guy who knows so much about engines not know anything about cars and teams?'
   "I'm going to cut that article out and put that on my wall.
   "That motivates me.
   "I want to win another Daytona 500….and something like that is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. It's been a long time.
   "But with the talent we've got now, it's getting closer."
   Daytona has been dominated by Chevrolet the past many years (though it was a Dodge-Dodge-Toyota-Toyota finish last spring).
   "The 2000 season was the last win by Ford," Yates said.
   "It takes a long time to build up to win that race…and we improved on our (Daytona-Talladega) cars all year long…and when we got to Talladega last fall, we sat on the pole with Travis and all the Fords ran well….until that little incident at the finish took five Fords out.
   "The way we all performed in that race gives me a lot of hope….
   "I think we'll be really competitive at Daytona this time, and have a shot to win it. You know Jack Roush has never won that 500. And nothing would be sweeter than, as Jack's engine builder, to help him win that first one, if we can't do it ourselves."
   There certainly seems a larger element of optimism in the Yates camp right now than at this time a year ago.
   Yates, with a nod toward the sponsorless Team Yates flag right behind him, said having two sponsored teams gives him hope for getting sponsorship for Kvapil as well. "It's nice for the crew guys to wear shirts that have actual sponsorship colors and the trailer painted," Yates said.
"That brings a little relief.
   "And it allows you to focus on the racing. Sometimes you get so caught up in worrying 'How are we going to make it, how are we going to get a sponsor….' It's nicer to be worrying instead about 'How are we going to improve our team?'
   "The guys who stuck with us and worked with us last year were really taking a chance. They said 'Hey, we're going to make this work.'
   "Now we've got some color on the cars and some sponsorships in place, we can focus on getting Travis sponsored…and focus on building our operation to four teams for 2010."
   The Labonte addition, in the 'merger' with Hall of Fame racing's Tom Garfinkel and Jeff Moorad, was such a sudden situation that it's still being digested, Yates said.
   "In some ways it's a good time,  because there are a lot of quality people looking for work," Yates said. "So having another team like this is good for the sport. I have to give Max Jones (Yates' business partner) the credit for that, because he runs that part of the team.
   "The Bobby program came together really late. But, man, we're really blessed to have a driver of Bobby's caliber in our camp. It adds a lot of value."
   And Gilliland? "David is still under contract to Yates Racing, and we're looking for opportunities for him," Yates said. "With Bobby's deal coming along, and with keeping Travis in the number 28, David doesn't have a ride right now.
  "But David Gilliland is a great race car driver; he did an excellent job for us last year. And hopefully there is something out there that helps us put him back in a seat….or something that he can find."



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