Too Late for Car No. 28: Another Tragic Tale of Fabled Yates Racing Ride

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Too Late for Car No. 28: Another Tragic Tale of Fabled Yates Racing Ride
(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

If 13 is considered an unlucky number in the common world, the No. 28 seems to be NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing's answer to a jinxed digit.

Although synonymous with legendary drivers like Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough, Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan, it seems that this particular number is the kiss of death to anyone who dares to traverse the circuit on a race-to-race basis.

Longtime NASCAR fans may associate the No. 28 to the illustrious Robert Yates, who fielded those famous Texaco-Havoline Fords to numerous trips to Victory Lane, including a memorable 1992 Daytona 500 victory piloted by the late Davey Allison.

As successful as this number is for Yates, it's also had its share of tragedies.

Now led by Robert's son, Doug, Yates Racing experienced yet another tragic chapter to their beloved No. 28 car with the inevitable closure of the underfunded team following the March 22 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The car, which was driven by Travis Kvapil, managed to survive a full season in 2008 despite arriving to the track each weekend with sponsorship uncertainty. Max Jones, team manager for Yates Racing, and company somehow managed to get the team to compete each week.

By virtue of weekly, one race sponsorship deals that saw companies like Golden Corral and Hitachi on board with the once prominent Ford ride, Kvapil and crew managed to come up with a respectable 23rd place finish in the points standings.

However, this season has seen the absolute knockout blow to this Yates team, despite the addition of Bobby Labonte through the acquisition of the Hall of Fame Racing team and Paul Menard.

With sponsorship dollars and the prime equipment focused more towards Labonte and Menardt, this left Kvapil in the dust despite his valiant efforts to even get the 28 car to be respectable out on the track last year.

It almost leads one to wonder if the 28 ride is the cursed ride of NASCAR. Well is it?

Davey Allison, who had come oh so close to a title in 1992 and had a breakout season in 1991, would perish tragically from injuries in a helicopter accident during the 1993 racing season when attempting to land the copter on the grounds of Talladega Superspeedway.

A year later, just when Yates was recovering from their loss of a NASCAR favorite in Allison, the emerging Ernie Irvan would suffer life-threatening injuries from a hard crash in a practice session at Michigan International Speedway in August of 1994.

Yates would persevere through that, with the 28 and 88 teams finding success with wins and the 1999 NASCAR Cup Championship from the efforts of Dale Jarrett and the No. 88 Quality Care Ford contingency.

Some argue that the Hendrick Motorsports team once was "jinxed" with the No. 25 car, which had endured a fifteen year win less drought from Ken Scharder's Dover triumph in June of 1991 until Brian Vickers' memorable win at Talladega in October of 2006.

Since then, the 25 team has changed identities (aka numbers) and become the 88 team, which is driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

The tragic closure of the No. 28 Yates Racing Ford team is another dark scar in the sport of NASCAR. Mostly blamed upon the the fledgling world economy, it almost makes even the layman NASCAR fan wonder how much longer will it be until a famous number on the track may disappear from the racing scene.

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