Climbing the ladder.
It�s a term everyone who works for a living understands and it�s a good way to describe how Robert Yates went from just a young man who liked to drive fast to one of the top owners in NASCAR racing.
This year RYR brings together the talents of veteran and former RYR driver Ricky Rudd to pair with rookie David Gilliland.
Like many Southern teenagers who grew up in the formative years of stock car racing, Yates loved the thrill of speeding up and down the highway. While growing up in the Charlotte, N.C.-area, he got a regular dose of that by racing his own dragster at Shuffletown Dragway in the late 1950s.
Racing remained in his blood and led to an interest in components generating the power that made the cars go fast. He began concentrating on building a career under the hood and it didn�t take long for his reputation to grow.
He made a name for himself as an engine builder shortly after joining the Ford-backed organization of Holman-Moody in �68. That marked his first full-time job in racing and coincided with David Pearson winning back-to-back NASCAR Winston Cup championships in �68 and �69.
As his reputation continued to grow, other car owners did their best to lure Yates to their side. Junior Johnson eventually succeeded in �71 and when DiGard Racing was formed five years later, Yates� expertise was at its peak. From �76-�86, his engines produced three straight championships for Cale Yarborough (�76-�78); back-to-back titles for Darrell Waltrip in �81-�82; Bobby Allison�s only crown in �83; and Waltrip�s final championship in �85.
He left DiGard in �86 to work on developing synthetic fuels, but was quickly back in the racing game when he joined the Ranier/Lundy organization as team manager.
Yates made it to the final rung in �88 when he decided to purchase the team from Harry Ranier in �88, and since then has become one of the most successful car owners in the sport.
RYR has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments ever since Davey Allison got behind the wheel for the team�s first full season in �89. Allison gave Yates his first win as a car owner at Talladega and since then he has never looked back.
RYR has 57 wins in NASCAR�s elite division, including Dale Jarrett�s win at Talladega Superspeedway in the Ford 500 in 2005. That win continued RYR�s streak of winning at least one Cup race since its first season in 1989. Almost as impressive is the fact that Yates teams have finished in the top 10 nearly 50 percent of the time in more than 750 races.
During that time Yates has employed veteran drivers including Ernie Irvan, Rudd and Jarrett, but has also given opportunities to younger competitors including Allison, Irwin and Elliott Sadler.
And while he has had his share of ups-and-downs, Yates has always been committed to doing whatever it takes to remain competitive. That was never more evident than �96 when he decided to join the growing trend of multi-car operations by starting a second team. He tapped Jarrett, who had been filling in for an injured Irvan the previous year, to drive the new car and that decision paid off handsomely.
Jarrett and then-crew chief Todd Parrott did something that is still talked about today as they won the �96 Daytona 500 in their very first race together. That was an omen of things to come as the team posted three straight top-three points finishes before winning the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in �99.
More recently, Yates has handed more responsibility to his son, Doug, who now oversees the engine department. However, the elder Yates remains an integral part of an organization that sports more than 150 employees.