Thursday, January 03, 2008

The end of an era

I accidentally saw history Thursday afternoon.

I was in the Talbert Pointe business park in Mooresville on my way to an interview for a story that'll be in Sunday's Observer. As I came down the hill toward the corner of Talbert Point and Byers Creek roads, I saw a truck with a "cherry picker" parked at the entrance of Robert Yates Racing's former NASCAR shop.

A worker was removing, piece by piece, the sign that had marked the facility as that of the team owned by Robert Yates. By the time I'd finished my business and was leaving the park, the truck and the worker were gone. So was the sign.

The shop isn't empty. Actually, Petty Enterprises is well on its way toward moving its operations from its historic headquarters in Level Cross to occupy that building.

The cars that Yates owned are still scheduled to be around in 2008 as well. With Yates' retirement at the end of the 2007 season, he sold the teams to his son, Doug, and the new Yates Racing team will be based in a shop near the airport in Concord in the Roush Fenway Racing complex.

The Yates family and Jack Roush have been working together on engines for a while now, and Doug Yates is going to work closely with the Roush Fenway team now that he's the car owner.

His father, a man who got his first racing job in 1968 managing the air gauge department at the legendary Holman-Moody racing operation, is now 63 years old. He spent nearly 40 years chasing horsepower, working for legendary teams like Holman-Moody, Junior Johnson and DiGard. He then bought a team from Harry Ranier in 1988 and that became Robert Yates Racing. He won races with Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan, and then battled through Allison's death and critical injuries Irvan suffered in a terrible crash at Michigan.

Yates, whose fascination with engines began when he and his twin brother, Richard (the youngest of nine children) began tinkering with go-karts at their home in Charlotte, also won races with Ricky Rudd and a Winston Cup championship with Dale Jarrett. Even though he's stepped away from the sport now, he's still the absolute embodiment of the term "racer."

Yates certainly deserves to spend less time trying to make a little more power and little more time with his wife, Carolyn, enjoying the fruits of all they've worked for. But it's sad to see him go, and seeing that sign come down reminded me of that.

It also worries me, frankly, to think about where the next generation of the likes of Robert Yates will come from. Yes, Doug was there to take over and keep the family's name in racing. But not every NASCAR team owner has a son who wants to follow him into racing. It costs an incredible amount of money to field a competitive team these days, and the task of getting a start-up team off the ground looks almost impossible at times.

The future is a little frightening, to be honest. Maybe it will all work itself out over time, I guess we'll just have to see about that.

But for this one afternoon, seeing that sign come off the front of the place that Robert had been so proud of when his team first moved there reminded me that we need to appreciate the people who're around when they're around, and not wait until they're all but gone to recognize all they've done.

And not just in racing, either.


Tiredawg said...

Lets start with you Dave. Thanx for ALL the great stories and memories.

Anonymous said...

This I believe will be how The France family looses their control. With only 12 teams, the idea of saying "my way or the highway" wiil be a thing of the past. Teams in my opinion will be able to gather togeather and force Nascar to deal with them on their terms.

Unknown said...

Yes,'Anonymous" is right ! A perfect example of the wisdom in that move is CART. We need to stay where we are and improve what we have...

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you two. NASCAR will always be saying "my way or the highway". For two, their freakin' over inflated egos. They must have the last word. Two, we're going to see more investors like Bob Kraft, the Fenway Group, etc. This will help with getting more owners involved and with sponsorship. But, NASCAR will ALWAYS have the last word. The only person that could ever change their minds was Dale Sr. If Jr. would step up, they may listen, but he doesn't want to take on that role. So, it's NASCAR's way or the highway.

Anonymous said...

"It costs an incredible amount of money to field a competitive team these days, and the task of getting a start-up team off the ground looks almost impossible at times."

This is what scares me about the Top 35.

Anonymous said...

JR. doesn't have that power.

For me, as a fan, I'm thinking I'm gone after Fox is done broadcasting this year. Sooner if the 50th Daytona 500 is as boring as the Talladega race was in the fall.

The top 35 rule is pathetic. Nascar's calls are sad and biased.

I'm surprised that more of these owners aren't getting the big payday of the investors and moving on to better things.

Anonymous said...

The end of an era...I felt the same way when I heard the Junior Johnson was leaving the sport. We lose so much when we lose a class act like Robert Yates!

Dennis Michelsen

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the France Family could walk away tomorrow and generations of that family would be provided for.$$$$$$$$$$$$

Anonymous said...

I was missing Dave Macis's contributions to the sport after he left. --Like him, I'll also miss RYR.

Anonymous said...

Call me a Chicken Little but I see NA$CAR priceing themselves right out of business.Look around.There are VERY FEW races these days that are sell outs.Oh,sure,technically all the tickets are "sold".More like given to sponsors for their VIP's.It's impossible these days for the early fans of the series to go to a race with out planning and saving for a whole damn year.Take the kids too?Pay $45-$50 for a kids ticket just to have them wind up playing in the dirt and "beer mud" under the grandstand?Who can afford that? I can't even watch a race on the TV without getting bored and commerceled to death.
I used to live,breath and bleed NA$CAR.I feel like I have been divorced by a wife of 50 years.
Brian France, Mike Helton,You idiots can kiss my ass!!!

mnlatemodelfan said...

The picture of Robert Yates they used when announcing this deal with Roush showed it all. A very tired and beat down owner finally giving up the ship. It also let Jack spit in the face of NASCAR by giving him more teams. Who did Roush put in the 28 car-his guy Travis Kvapil. Also Max Jones from Roush is a part owner at Yates. Thanks for all the good things that you did for racing Robert Yates.

Anonymous said...

until nasa car get back to racing like they use to and for get this top 35 and let each man be for himself and race like racing should be bang them up put in the wall or what ever you have to do to win. and the man that comes out in the end with the points wins champion . not this top 10 or 12. people are getting tired of picking and choicing the one you want to win . keep fox or speed for racing for get the other channels . Sorry Rust you aren't a annoucer . keep dw. and bbb. for all 36 races . he know what racing is . happy reitrement Mr yates.

Anonymous said...

I never was a fan of Robert Yates Racing but I was a fan of Robert Yates. Let me clarify that comment. Back in 1993, my son, who was 12 at the time, and I decided to visit/tour as many race shops as we could in the Mooresville/Charlotte area. Most of the shops welcomed us warmly and showed us around. Some weren't so warm but did their obligation. Some were almost rude and said they didn't have time to do it. Most of the shops asked us not to take pictures while on our tour. But when we arrived at RYR, the receptionist called back to see if someone was available to show us around. We waited a couple of minutes and to our amazement, Robert Yates appeared, introduced himself to us and asked us a little about ourselves. He then took us on our tour. I asked him about taking pictures and he said that would be fine. In fact, he even let me take pics in the engine room. And you all know, Yates was the king of horsepower back then and I'm sure he had some secrets to achieve that but you would never know it by the way he acted. He was a true gentleman on the entire tour and let us take some pictures with him at the end.
Memories like that stay with a person forever. His shop is the only one of that tour I remember but the reason I is because of
Robert Yates.
All I can say is a big thank you if you ever read this, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Robert Yates is a class act!!!! Sure am sorry to see him leave the sport!! There is no one that will replace people like him....All the hard nosed racers are gone. Notice I said "racers", not the little golden boys we see driving in circles today. The drivers today are not there because they've earned their way, their there because their "marketable...plain and simple.
Nascar has lost it's roots.....and doesn't even seem to care. Now, unfortunately, it's just big business......
I, like anonymous, used to be a diehard fan. Never would even dream of missing a race. But now it doesn't matter. Actually most are pretty boring.
Cookie cutter cars that all look alike.
My first "live" race was in Dover, De.....paid $40 for a ticket..Took my son and we had the time of our lives...Qualifying was $5 and watching practice and happy hour was free. The price of a Busch ticket was $18.
Driver autographs??? Not a problem!!
I stood in line for 3 hours to get THE KINGS autograph...He acted like we were best friends.....Gave each individual fan all the time they wanted with him. You'd never see that today. Never.
I won't even get into the poor television coverage. Thank God we can record the races and watch them if we want and can skip over all those endless commercials.
Remember when they were first thinking of having Cup races on Saturday nights and were worried it would hurt the small local week-end tracks? They shouldn't have worried, I'll go to the local track and not worry if a race is on t.v. The racing is alot better on the local level......More exciting too!!!

Anonymous said...

i am in agreement with those who say nascar has become well on it's way to self destruction. brian france and company have tried for the past several years to distance itself from its southern roots and as far as i am concerned it has succeeded! it's no longer racing it is instead marketing and big business. political correctness has replaced individual personalities and driving skill has been replaced with who has the best tv smile and demeanor. in the words of junior johnson "most of 'em can't drive a nail" but they look good in front of the camera. like all fads the public will tire with the "show" and move on to something else and the powers that be will be left scratching their heads and wondering what happened!

Anonymous said...

I have been inspired by the prolific writings of Anonymous on these pages recently and feel I must contribute as well…! To be a real racer, you must eat bacon; at least a quarter pound a day.

This new NASCAR rule is needed to insure the integrity of the sport, to maintain the values our stock car racing forefathers set, to keep trail-mix and crunchies from invading the beer, smoke, and fat filled, all too narrow, pit lanes of speedways across America. I ask for the rule because I am afraid...afraid that NASCAR’s new found popularity will modernize the sport and thrust it into the 21st and possible long term success.

Yes, it seems true. Even without the daily scriptures of David Poole, and the wonders of the Internet, NASCAR motor racing is on the rebound, and crowds across America are lining up to jam their size 52’s on to bleacher boards, drink draft beer and shout obscenities at their favorite racing heroes.

This discovery prompted me to ask my friends exactly how popular NASCAR motor racing had become while in my comatose absence. The answer really surprised me! They said it rivaled Las Vegas lounge singers Marty and Elaine Mc Doogan attendance wise, but not in quality of sound.

Knowing that Marty and Elaine pack ‘em in by the thousands six nights a week, I began to worry. Trendy sports typically attract a trendy crowd. To be more specific, they attract ‘em like salmon to a shiny silver lure. And when they (not the salmon) flock to a sport, money, technology and the dreaded changes of success are soon to follow.

I can see it now race fans; wrist braces, targeting goggles, stylish closed toe shoes with semi-adhesive hyperflexible liquid-cooled soles, friction-free undergarments, no-limit credit cards and real (made over there) foreign cars. I can envision tens-of-thousands of 30-something professional types drinking white wine and shouting obscene, albeit politically correct, remarks at the starter for putting Billy Joe to the rear for an obscene gesture.

High-tech scoring theories on how to make NASCAR motor racing better would not kill the sport alone. The ‘nouveau fan and corporate team owners would have to do more than that to change the ol’ weathered face of our sport. They would have to introduce fiscal stability, business management, and personal development programs…‘Pit Crew’ wages and benefits would be considered, their health would become an issue; with Suzanne Summers leading the way, each crew person would have to undergo a fitness face lift and a health regimen to satisfy the new team owners and their stockholders. No more smoke, beer, or deep-fat fryers would be allowed. Instead, we would have power protein gel dispensers and spring water on the pit walls. Drivers would compete to 65 years of age and our crews could work till they drop… What the Hell, according to some, NASCAR motor racing only requires an intense combination of balance, coordination, and mental focus.

Now, at last, consider that ADA accommodations, sanitation, air conditioning, communications and well developed media coverage, and the very long list of speedway creature comforts be damned, NASCAR motor racing should be enjoyed in an incredibly unhealthy atmosphere; in most venues of old you could barely count the number of race cars through the smoke n’ haze. It did not bother most of us, because that is part of the sport; ‘racing without the dust or the beer-mud and body odor just was not stock car racing’. And, now what have we done? NASCAR motor racing is unique in that its social, athletic and fiscal elements are interdependent (closely tied). Without each, plus the sage wisdom of David Poole, and a few others like him, I fear NASCAR will die. (TIC)