Doug worked in his father Robert's race shop during summers in between semesters, then joined organization full-time in 1992 as the team's engine builder. Doug's engines led to several wins as well as the 1999 Cup Series Championship with driver Dale Jarrett.
In 2004, with the support from Ford, the Yates and their rival Jack Roush of Roush Racing combined engine departments to form what is now Roush Yates Engines, with Doug Yates becoming CEO and President. The company builds over 1,000 engines annually in their 75,000 square foot shop. Yates started Roush Yates Performance Parts in 2008, an outlet for new and used engine and chassis parts. He became co-owner of the company in 2009 after he bought out his father's share of the company.
Yates won NASCAR's 2011 engine builder award. Yates described the process of building the loud and powerful engines as "somewhat relaxing" in a 2012 interview.
Yates gained control of Robert Yates Racing at the end of the 2007 season, after his father retired. Unlike the success of the organization with his father, the team struggled to find sponsorship and consistency with drivers David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil. In spite of the uncertanty they expanded to a third team for 2009, adding Paul Menard's 98 car, and fielding 2000 Champion Bobby Labonte in an alliance with Hall of Fame Racing. Gilliland was released and his team shut down, Kvapil's 28 car was parked early in the season due to lack of funding, and Labonte was replaced with Erik Darnell late in the season in an attempt to attract sponsorship. The team closed after the 2009 season, merging with Richard Petty Motorsports.