Earlier this year, Ford introduced a new engine to power its NASCAR competitors. Called the FR9, it represents a leap forward in technology as NASCAR moves to the Car of Tomorrow racing chassis. But it has big shoes to fill. This marks an end to an era where one particular cylinder head design seemed to dominate the NASCAR landscape…that is famed racing legend Robert Yates.

Racin’ Today wrote up a detailed article on the impact Yates-designed cylinder heads had on NASCAR.

Picture: Racin' Today

Robert Yates saw his first NASCAR race back in 1963 at Daytona, and from there he was hooked. He quickly became an engine-building prodigy and rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in the business, including Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby Allison. In 1992 he submitted a cylinder head design to Ford that was selected over the likes of designs by Roush, Johnson, and Ernie Elliot. The design became standard for all Ford NASCAR teams, while Chevy and Pontiac maintained their own. The head immediately proved its worth, as Alan Kulwicki piloted his Ford Thunderbird to the championship in 1992, the first year it ran the Yate’s head.

Picture: Ford

While Roush and the others were intent on making the valves and compression chamber as large as possible, Yates went the other route, downsizing everything. This helped the engine maintain high compression during the duration of the race, as well as boosting horsepower. Even in 2004, when NASCAR removed restrictions on cylinder valve placement, the Yates design was left mostly untouched, though updated with new materials. The new FR9 engine will help take NASCAR forward, but the Yate’s head design will be remembered long after it has left the track for good.

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