Brock Yates, At Large, Class of 2017
By Stacy Bradley
Brock Yates is considered a founding father of automotive journalism. He authored a prolific amount of columns, books and movies, which span decades and embrace his incredible love and respect for all things motorsports.
Born and raised in Lockport, NY, he spent most of his adult life in nearby Castile and Wyoming. Coming of age during the birth of NASCAR and Formula One, his childhood and teenage years were heavily influenced by motorsports. After graduating from Hobart with a degree in history and a four-year stint in the Navy, he dedicated his life to journalism.
Nicknamed “The Assassin” by his peers, Brock spoke truth to power, engendering a bevy of loyal followers and ardent naysayers through his unparalleled wit and colorful, often biting commentary. He helped raise automotive journalism from a simple recitation of wins and losses to a multidimensional look at the sport in context of global themes, politics and personal insight.
Brock is perhaps best known for creating The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in 1971, his response to rising insurance rates, stricter traffic laws and, later, the Iran oil embargo and institution of a federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit. It achieved cult status amongst enthusiasts, especially after Yates and 1991 inductee Dan Gurney won the sophomore event in a Ferrari Daytona. It achieved even greater prominence with the popular Cannonball Run movies, written by Yates and starring Burt Reynolds.
Brock solidified his place in journalistic history with his groundbreaking 1968 column The Grosse Pointe Myopians and 1983 book The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, in which he accurately predicted the cannibalization and implosion of Detroit’s long-held hegemony.
In addition to being a writer/editor for Car and Driver for 40 years, Brock contributed to The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The American Spectator, Boating, Vintage Motorsports and other publications. He created One Lap of America, authored 15 books, two screenplays and hundreds of columns. He was also a commentator for CBS Sports and had two successful TV shows.
While working for CBS Sports, he was part of the team that changed the face of NASCAR in America. Brock was a pit commentator during the historic 1979 Daytona 500, with fellow inductees Ken Squier, David Hobbs and Ned Jarrett. It was the first live, flag-to-flag airing of a NASCAR event, and their coverage of Richard Petty’s win, on the heels of a fistfight between Cale Yarborough and Bobby and Donnie Allison, helped propel NASCAR to a new level of popularity and changed motorsports broadcasting forever.
In his later years, Brock was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but as with everything, he fought valiantly, maintaining his independence and intellect for as long as possible. He passed away in October of 2016.
Brock’s legacy is twofold. First as one of the most important and respected automotive writers of his time and secondly, and just as importantly, as a husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his children Brock Jr., Dan, Claire and Stacy, and their respective spouses, Cyndy, Maggie, Bob and Todd. He also leaves behind his adored grandchildren Sarah, Scott and Leda and his Lady Pamela, his wife, muse, partner, best friend and soul mate whom he thankfully remembered until the very end.
Stacy Bradley is Brock Yates’ daughter, editor and archivist. An author in her own right, Bradley worked with Yates to republish his biography, Enzo Ferrari; The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine, which will soon be released and is also in the process of being made into a movie.