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Voters Got It Right In Electing Horsepower-Guru Yates Into The Hall

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 25 2017

Robert Yates and driver Davey Allison celebrate a victory in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. (Archives via Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

A decade or so ago, a newspaper colleague who was assigned to do a couple of racing stories for an upcoming special section, questioned one of assignments – to do a feature on then NASCAR team owner Robert Yates.

“Why,” the guy, who was the type of other-sport reporter whom stick-and-ball sports editors would draft into racing service whenever races would come to town, asked.

Because, I responded, Yates’ face is the face of horsepower.

The response from the football-oriented reporter to that was, “Who cares?”

So, how do you answer that to someone who thinks knocking an off-balance running back to the ground with a heavily padded shoulder is having a prayer answered, you know?

Just do the story.

For those of us who do think that horsepower is sexy, that finding small bits of it here and there in the form of delicately tweaked valve trains or reconfigured cylinder heads, Wednesday was very good day.

It was the day that Yates, the son of a North Carolina minister and a formally trained engineer, got voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90 and extending into this century and this year, Yates power has driven some of the sports’ biggest names to wins and championships: drivers like Davey Allison, Ernie Irvin and Hall of Famers like Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltirp.

Yates, who got his NASCAR start working for Holman-Moody, went behind the scenes after shuttering his championship-winning Robert Yates Racing a couple years back but his biggest disciple – son Doug – has continued to crank out horsepower at Roush Yates Racing engines. Ford engines from that company continue to win races; perhaps the biggest being Le Mans in 2016 as they powered the Ford GTs of Chip Ganassi Racing.

To not understand horsepower’s allure to race fans in the past is to not understand racing heritage and, thus, to not understand racing at all.

To try to explain it to those who did not grow up as part of the American Car Culture, is an exercise in frustration.

In NASCAR garages on race weekends, in North Carolina race shops on visits there, current colleague John Sturbin and I would search out Robert. We didn’t even need orders from editors or the excuse of breaking news. The purpose was to talk V-8 engines and horsepower with a guru. He always obliged and informed.

On the final ballot I cast as a Hall of Fame voter – in 2015 – I checked the box next to Yates name. It was an easy choice but not a popular one among some others in the voting room that day.

On Wednesday, the panel got it right.

Welcome to posterity, Robert. An entire generation of gear heads will agree that you’ve earned it.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 25 2017
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