Robert Yates Racing is, in effect, merging with Roush-Fenway Racing. The deal for Newman-Haas to buy into the Yates team is off and Robert Yates himself is out.
And Ford is probably responsible for all of that.
That’s the latest news about Ford’s efforts in NASCAR.
In a statement issued Friday, Robert Yates simultaneously announced his retirement and the assumption of team ownership by his son, Doug Yates, who has been responsible for the day-to-day team operations. He also announced that the agreement which would have made Newman-Haas a partner in the team has been cancelled, and that Travis Kvapil would replace Ricky Rudd as a team driver in next year’s Sprint Cup series. (Rudd is retiring again; Sprint replaces Nextel as series sponsor, having acquired the company.)
The Yates team also issued a statement announcing that its agreement with Roush Racing to share engine development is being expanded to include engineering and technical areas, as well. Though the exact parameters of the arrangement were not articulated, the deal appears to expand the engine development arrangement which has existed between the two teams for the last four seasons to the rest of the car.
Dan Davis, director of racing at Ford, instantly issued a statement indicating regret that the deal with Newman-Haas had not been consummated, a statement which made it very clear that Ford was quite happy about that deal being cancelled:
"Philosophically, the partnership with Newman/Haas/Lanigan had merit, however there’s no question that partnering with Roush Fenway Racing will provide more immediate technical and operating support, leading to improved on-track performance. Bringing these programs together, much like the engine program, will have near and long-term operational benefits, and we will realize further efficiencies in our overall Ford NASCAR program.”
Doug Yates also issued a statement:
“I am very excited to carry the Yates Racing heritage into the future, (and) I believe I have the experience and understanding of the competition and business requirements that are necessary to be an effective team owner. My first order of business is to revamp our infrastructure into one that can field race teams that can compete successfully with the pre-eminent teams in the sport. I personally think the best business and competitive model in the sport to emulate for long-term success is that of Jack Roush and Roush Fenway Racing."
Though unseen, the role of Ford in this deal is unmistakable. It didn’t want Newman-Hass, it did want Roush to expand its role, and it was willing to come to the rescue of the Yates team. Of all of the Ford teams, only Roush has drivers in the top 12 in points: Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, third and fourth in points respectively. Rudd is 20th in points and David Gilliland, Yates other driver, is 28th. The merger of the Yates and Roush engine programs, which was Ford’s idea, has functionally become a Roush enterprise. It is clear that Ford considers Jack Roush its main man in NASCAR.
The status of the Yates team has been a topic of speculation since last season, when there were rumors that it would be sold to Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and that it would fold due to lack of sponsorship. The alliance with Roush is likely to help the Yates team in arranging sponsorship deals, because it offers some reason to believe the team’s performance will improve.