Doug Yates is carrying on a deep-rooted family tradition of producing horsepower and winning races.
Yates is the only son of Hall of Fame engine builder and team owner Robert Yates, who passed away last October. He grew up in the motorsports industry and earned a mechanical engineering degree from North Carolina State University in 1990.
The younger Yates worked his way through the ranks and was the head engine builder for Robert Yates Racing when his father’s team won the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series championship with driver Dale Jarrett.
In 2003, Doug Yates was named president and CEO of Roush Yates Engines when NASCAR team owners Jack Roush and Robert Yates combined their engine-building operations. As Ford’s exclusive engine builder for NASCAR racing, the company has since built more than 325 race-winning engines.
Today, at age 50, Yates leads a staff of 190 employees located in three state-of- the-art facilities in the Charlotte, N.C., area: Roush Yates Engines, Roush Yates Performance Engines Group and Roush Yates Manufacturing Solutions.
He recently sat down with SPEED SPORT to talk about the company and the business of producing horsepower.
Q: How many engines pass through your facility in a year’s time?
Yates: We build the Cup engines and we build the Xfinity engines for Ford. We also build the Ford GT engines that race in the IMSA WeatherTech Series along with the engines for the GT4 Mustangs. In total among the race engines and the development engines, it’s approximately 1,000 engines that go through our facility in the course of a year.
We also do quite a bit of testing here in our shops with our dynos where we run full race durability, so it’s like having another race car or two that we are continually building engines for and running races on our dynos.
Q: How has the engine-building process changed?
Yates: Back when I started, one guy would do the work from tearing the engine down, to washing the parts, to fitting the bearings and rings, to cutting his own pistons and then assembling everything. Today, those are all sub-assemblies.
As the Cup and Xfinity engines come through, a group of guys fits the bearings, locks the crank in place, fits the rings and cuts the pistons. Then the second sub-assembly group preps the cart, so everything is in place. The cylinder head department refurbishes the heads — valve job, blend flow, assemble and then back to the build shop.
When all of this comes back together, the final assembly process is actually very efficient and it’s about a day and a half to assemble an engine at that point, but if you count all the man hours from start to finish it’s a pretty lengthy process.
Q: What impact will NASCAR’s move to a spec engine in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series have on the industry?
Yates: The spec engine is very concerning for me. It goes back to the balance between the competitors and the racing — and that’s taking the engine out of the equation. It has shut down an engine shop here locally — Triad Technologies was in the news this week after shutting down its engine shop and people lost jobs. Hopefully, the upside of that is team viability, driver development and putting on a good show for the fans.
There is a place for spec engines. My dad’s company, Robert Yates Racing Engines, provides spec engines for the K&N Pro Series East and West and David Lewis runs that program. That’s been beneficial from an engine-cost standpoint, but I think a spec series has its place.
What I love about NASCAR is the competition side of it. I think that’s why people are involved in it, that’s the reason people turn on the TVs, to see the competition. Hopefully, they keep the engine part of that competition.