NASCAR: Robert Yates Racing Fantasy Preview

Updated: February 1, 2007, 5:51 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | Special to ESPN.com
2006 Team Performance
Calling Yates 2006 a disaster is an insult to disasters. The team always knew '06 was going to be a pivotal year; Elliott Sadler was unhappy with his No. 38 team and crew chief Tommy Baldwin, and had an "out" in his contract with Yates, while Jarrett was a lame duck, and decided early in the 2006 season that he'd take a huge offer from Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing for '07. During the year, Robert Yates also fired his general manager and restructured much of the racing organization, and before year's end released both of his crew chiefs. When Sadler finally left for Evernham Motorsports after the Brickyard 400, 30-year-old David Gilliland took over the No. 38 ride, getting 15 Nextel Cup events under his belt in preparation for the full-time ride in '07. He was pretty bad, but frankly just about equal to Sadler's earlier performance. Jarrett seemed to mail it in, do a lot of smiling interviews saying he wished his cars had been better, and waiting for the gold watch Toyota was ready to give him. Things absolutely needed to be re-made at Yates.

2007 Team Outlook
Rumors abounded that RYR would be purchased by any number of groups or individuals, but current management found some more dough, and is still in charge. With Sadler and Jarrett gone, and their crew chiefs Baldwin and Slugger Labbe fired around midseason, the slate is officially clean. Of course, the No. 88 ride, one of the most famous cars in the sport, needed a driver. Enter Ricky Rudd. For sure, there's irony in Rudd's return to Yates, because his departure from the team in 2002 was anything but amicable. But time heals all wounds, and Rudd's back after driving exactly one race in '06, replacing injured Tony Stewart at Dover. He'll be a mentor to Gilliland, and try and help Yates get back on something resembling firm footing, both competitively and financially. Of course, Rudd's 50 now, and he's a year behind on figuring out the new spoilers, tires and track surfaces. Too much uncertainty means not enough competitiveness. Yates will struggle in '07.

38 - David Gilliland
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 15th (twice)
Poles, Top-fives, top-10s, DNFs: 1, 0, 0, 1

ALSO SEE