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The end of the line for the Yates legend as car owners? After so many Daytona 500 wins, so many NASCAR tour victories, and the championship....

  Ford boss Brian Wolfe: good news and tough news -- signing Richard Petty...but losing Yates Racing (Photo: Autostock)

   By Mike Mulhern

   More background on the Richard Petty-George Gillett-Doug Yates Ford surprise:
   Doug Yates himself hasn't been at a NASCAR track in months, while working on development of Ford's new engine, which has yet to debut.
   So he's not been around to discuss what looks like the devolution of the NASCAR operation that his legendary father first launched in 1987, with the late Davey Allison. Now, after 57 tour wins, with stars like Allison, Dale Jarrett, Ernie Irvan, and Ricky Rudd, it appears the end of the line. It's been four years since the last Yates tour win.
   Doug Yates' business partner Max Jones, handling trackside stuff, has had nothing to say this weekend about the proposed team 'merger,' which Petty himself now describes as basically a buyout: "absorbing."
   And Geoff Smith, head of Roush Fenway Racing, is wary of getting too far ahead of things in this still evolving situation.
   However Brian Wolfe, head of Ford racing, is all smiles this weekend, basking in the surprise of landing Richard Petty and multi-millionaire sportsman George Gillett's four-team operation….or at least three of those teams, with Yates' Paul Menard to be the new team's fourth driver in 2010.
   Home run, it looks like for Ford.
   And this isn't just another stock car company that is moving in the Ford camp. This is the team that Chrysler signed Ray Evernham to build from scratch for Dodge's return to NASCAR racing in 2001, after a 30-year absence. This is the team that was to be Dodge's NASCAR anchor.
   Evernham, in 2007, sold majority interest to Gillett, who then bought Petty's own operation this past winter, rebadging it Richard Petty Motorsports.
   But Chrysler's bankruptcy changed things.
   Even before Chrysler's bankruptcy things were changing; last fall Gillett made a move to buy into Bill Davis' struggling Toyota operation, in order to get a Toyota engine deal. That gambit failed, and Toyota, after toying with the idea of signing – to get Petty as a company spokesman – decided a few weeks ago to pull the plug on any deal.
   With Chevrolet holding 12 Cup teams, Toyota out of the running, Dodge still questionable (and apparently banking on Roger Penske's three-team operation as its new NASCAR anchor), the only Detroit option for Gillett and Petty was obvious.   
    And Wolfe apparently made the first move, back in April.
   Then the Gilletts, George and his son Foster, who helps run Richard Petty Motorsports, apparently dropped by Ford Motor Company headquarters in June to discuss things further.

   Doug Yates: back to engines? (Photo: Autostock)

"I definitely feel like a winner," Wolfe says.

   "We approached Foster back in April or May….about our analytic toolsets, Yates power, resources…although we didn't have any financials to go along with that. We told them we'd love for them to be in Fords.
    "There were a lot of rumors and we said 'I don't know what's going on, but we just want to let you know what we have.'
   "We talk to a lot of teams, trying to be racer-friendly.
   "They came back and talked more and more.  This is a big commitment, and there are still a lot of details to be filled out.
   "We talked about Ford Motor Company, and our future product lines, our DNA in these cars…and them finding value in that and that Ford is a company they wanted to partner with, does make us feel really, really good."
    If anyone else wants to join Ford, "I'd love for them to look at us too," Wolfe said.
    Ironically Kasey Kahne is now back in a Ford….after
    "He's a great young man, handles himself well," Wolfe said.
    "Ford has a long respect for Richard. He's one of the few that have received the spirit of Ford award. We're proud he's going to be part of the Ford family."
    That's one side of the picture. The other side is Doug Yates'. The second-generation engine builder
   "Doug said he was welcoming the opportunity to concentrate on engines…even though it was a bit sad not to have a Yates' named team out there," Smith says.
    Roush Fenway supplies major engineering support and marketing support to Yates' current two-car team. If Petty Gillett opt for having Roush Fenway expand that support to all four of their teams, that would be a major expansion. However, Smith points out that Petty Gillett might opt to do its own work instead.
   It appears likely that the Gillett Petty operation would be moving from the current shop (ironically Robert Yates' own old place in Mooresville) to the Yates shops in Concord, next door to Roush Fenway and across the street from NASCAR's R&D center.
   However Smith says the deal is still not finished.
   "There are all these details they have to work through…and as they do that, they'll be able to tell Roush Fenway what our role would be," Smith said.
    "This affects our people, because we have a lot of staffing dedicated to building cars and engines and transmissions. If they (Petty-Gillett) wind up keeping their own engine department, because they're not satisfied with whatever the Roush-Yates engines can do, then Doug won't be making as many engines. And the same with the cars. If they end up making their own cars, our employees are affected.
   "So we went right to our employees and told them to keep their heads down, because there are a lot of details to be worked through before we know what the consequences are.
   "I assume it will be about a month.
   "We don't really know….
   "All these public discussions do is make everybody nervous…before the principals have a chance to work through everything."
   In a sense this deal appears to be a plus for Roush Fenway and Yates, because Yates has been having sponsorship issues and without enough sponsorship some of the Roush Fenway engineering support for the Yates camp "looked like that was going to be shrunk," Smith says.
   "So I think Max was the first one to have some conversation on the topic….
   "We want all the answers as fast as we can get them. Right now we're not sure….
    "For us, the more teams the merrier. We have the management capability, the know-how, the experience and leadership with Doug, ….I don't think there is any manufacturing constraint here."

  Robert Yates, the man who started the Yates racing empire (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Yates Legend

I have always been a fan of Robert Yates. I'll never forget getting my picture taken with him and getting his autograph in the garage area one time. I was so excited to see him, I actually interrupted a conversation he was having with one of his employees, but he was totally cool about it. To me, that surpassed getting the autograph of any driver that day. Being a Davey Allison fan, RYR represented Davey's legacy and the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford stayed around for more than a decade after his passing. That is very rare: Take a look at the field today. How many cars out there have the same owner, number, sponsor, and manufacturer that they did 10 years ago? I can only think of the #24 and #5. I think it says a lot that when Dale Jr. asked for the #28, Robert sold him the #88, which was actually the car # of RYR's sole championship.

I am a diehard Ford man, so the addition of 3 new teams is exciting, but I hate that it had to come at the expense of the Yates name. However, isn't Roush-Yates a separate company whose sole purpose is to build engines? If that is the case, doesn't the Yates name live on in some capacity? I wonder how the merger would impact that.

Robert didn't start out as a team owner. He worked for other teams as an engine builder and correct me if I am wrong, but didn't he actually build the engine Richard Petty was running when he won his 200th race?
Maybe Doug will someday have the opportunity to become a race team owner again and be able to follow the same path as his dad. You never know.

At any rate, I hope they bring back the #28. I think it would excite a lot of people to see the #28 and #43 in the same stable.

i agree -- #28 is special...i

i agree -- #28 is special...i was at loudon for his last race, and had just gotten home monday night when i heard of the crash at talladega....there were a lot of us at his funeral...and i still remember larry mac's tears.....

yes, the roush-yates engine operation is separate....all these 'teams' have so many sub-companies it's hard to keep track of how they're really organized.

robert and i go way back....to when he was junior johnson's engine man. one of the few true geniuses in the sport. but robert always seemed to have more fun dealing with engines than running a team....yes, he was petty's motor man in '84.....and we've always wondered just how big that engine really was

'84 Engine Was Legal

I keep hearing all the stuff that Petty's 1984 engine was oversized - it wasn't. Here's why -

* The engine nearly wasn't run that race. The Gardners (who owned DiGard where Yates was the engine builder) were feuding with Mike Curb even up to the morning of the '84 Firecracker.

* Curb was a customer team; Bobby Allison was DiGard's primary driver. Customer teams do not get the very best (or biggest) stuff (something Tony Stewart is going to learn at some point just as Gibbs and Bob Whitcomb and everyone else who ran customer Hendrick engines learned) and once the customer cars start winning (Petty had already won at Dover six weeks earlier) they're in the target window.

* Petty didn't win on horsepower; he won on handling. Cale needed power because the Ranier cars weren't the best in handling.

* This was less than a year after the infamous National 500, and it is absurd that anyone wanted to go through that again.

* The myth still persists that NASCAR wanted Petty to win that race in front of the President when at that time it was Cale who was the sport's biggest celebrity and Petty had been in the France Family's doghouse since the '69 Talladega boycott.

RPM shop

Mike, RPM is located in Statesville in the massive Gillett facility Evernham grew to house the Dodge comeback. It's unlikely they will (can) shrink their four-team operation to fit into the miniscule (by comparison) Yates shops in Concord... unless they do farm out all of the ancillary operations except final assembly to somebody else like Roush. It’s a lot simpler to move the Yates remains north.

gillett has been trying to

gillett has been trying to get out of that statesville airport place (remember how it started with bill elliott over in that little hanger across the way?) and closer to the mainstream shops in charlotte for a while now....and i agree that the yates shop itself is pretty small for a four-car team. but there is plenty of 'space available' facilities down there in concord near jack roush's place. the real problem here, i fear, is that gillett is an absentee car owner, who isn't really a racer but a sports marketing guy. and i'm more than a little worried about what looks like a plan to drop the entire engine operation and put those 40-80 guys, with families, out on the street. and of course there's nothing that says all four teams have to be in the same shop......and what is going on over at robert yates racing -- the shop that he has been leasing to petty? i haven't been by there lately. maybe i should drive by tomorrow.

line up

RPM should set their lineup like this #9 Kahne #28 Kvapil #43 The Dinger Dude #98 Menard (until his daddy's money runs out)thats just what I think.

i'm still not sure how this

i'm still not sure how this 'merger' thing may really work out.....not really sure who the boss is....not really sure about the engine operation at Gillett's.....

RPM to Ford

I not only lost my drivers I also lost a team and sponsers. I cannot support this switch to Ford I am so bumed out at this news. P.J.

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