Yates fires general manager

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Eddie D’Hondt was fired Tuesday as general manager of Robert Yates Racing in a shakeup of the struggling team.

“We are re-evaluating the way we are doing business from the top down,” Yates said. “This is a performance-based business and we have to evaluate the performance of where our cars are now.”

D’Hondt joined RYR in late 2003 and helped guide Elliott Sadler into the inaugural Chase for the championship. the next season. But both Dale Jarrett and Sadler missed out on the playoffs last year, and currently rank 12th and 15th in the Nextel Cup standings.

It’s part of a downward slide the organization has been on since a six-year streak of placing a driver in the top five of the final standings ended in 2001.

Now Jarrett, who won the 1999 championship for Yates, is leaving to drive a Toyota next season and sponsor UPS might go with him.

There are very few worthy drivers available to replace Jarrett in the No. 88 Ford, which is slowly losing its luster as one of the top rides in NASCAR.

“Eddie did a good job for us,” co-owner Doug Yates said. “But this is our company, and Robert and I have decided we need to get our arms around our company. We’re not happy with where we’re at as a race team. We need to reassert key people including ourselves.”

Since its 1989 debut, RYR won 57 races and had 419 top-10 finishes in 919 starts. Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and a championship for Yates. The team also had at least one driver in the top 10 in the point standings in 10 out of 17 years.

But Jarrett has not made the final top 10 since 2002, and Sadler only did it in 2004.

Robert Yates blamed the downfall on the company not advancing as quickly as the sport did.

“Right now we are a victim of our own success,” Robert Yates said. “For so many years we were successful with the formula we used to run this team. We stayed small and didn’t grow as fast as the technology in the sport has grown.

“What worked five years ago doesn’t work now. We know we’ve fallen behind in that respect.”

Jarrett’s team is also mired in a cheating scandal created when crew chief Slugger Labbe was caught with an illegal modification on the car three weeks ago. He’s currently serving a four-race suspension.

But the infraction put intense scrutiny on Robert Yates, who vowed he would fire any employee caught cheating after rival crew chief Chad Knaus was thrown out of the Daytona 500. Yates has stood by Labbe, who maintains he was exploiting a gray area in the rule book.

“We know we have good people that work for us,” Doug Yates said. “We need to let the key people we have in place perform the jobs for which they were hired and have faith in their talents and abilities.”

AP-ES-05-23-06 1623EDT

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