BUSCH: Evernham, Crocker transcript

Erin Crocker is the first female to win a World of Outlaws race, and she won the National Sprint car Hall of Fame 410 "Wild Card" award this year. She has been racing since the age of seven in a variety of series on both pavement and dirt, and ...

Erin Crocker is the first female to win a World of Outlaws race, and she won the National Sprint car Hall of Fame 410 "Wild Card" award this year. She has been racing since the age of seven in a variety of series on both pavement and dirt, and brings a lot of great experience to Evernham Motorsports. In addition to her racing career, she recently earned her degree in Industrial and Management Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY.

Ray Evernham (President, CEO, Evernham Motorsports)

"It's a big day for us. We're very happy, very excited to announce our partnership with Erin, along with the partnership with Kasey and I on the Silver Crown side of things. Erin will be driving a second car to Kasey's race team in all of the USAC Silver Crown pavement races. She'll be doing ARCA races, a minimum of three ARCA races for me, and a minimum of three Busch races in Evernham Dodges. So, we're excited about that. If you're not really familiar with Erin, she's done a great job working her way through midgets and some races in the Pro Truck Series, which is not quite like the Craftsman Truck, but more along the late-model stock vehicle. And has just done a tremendous job on the WoO series. I'm certainly a big open-wheel fan. I really believe in talent of Sprint Car drivers, and we were fortunate to talk to Erin. I really believe in diversity and that everybody deserves a fair shot in NASCAR racing. We're very excited to be able to put a program together with Erin to be in a Dodge for some races next year. Our goals are to help her grow her career, and hopefully get her into a fulltime Busch ride. I'd like to be able to look back and say I was part of Erin becoming the first woman to win a major NASCAR event. We believe she has the talent to do it. We're going to bring her along slowly, and have her surrounded with some good mentors like Bill Elliott, Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne, and do the best that we can to mold her career. You'll see when you meet her that she's an attractive young lady, full of life and fun, and we're really looking forward to working with her."

Q: On finding and signing development deals

"I think it's extremely important if you look at what Rick Hendrick has built, and what Jack Roush has built, a lot of what they have done has based upon their development teams. Chip Ganassi is working on it. I think to compete in the future, you've got to be able to have a triple-A team. Every good pro series has one. This is a little bit more different than a standard development program, because I really believe in being able to give something more to the sport. We're going to be making announcements with our diversity program shortly, but we believe in what we're doing with Erin. I want to make sure that a female driver has a fair shot at this sport. I think there's been some good people that have gone before, like Patty Moise, Shawna Robinson, Lyn St. James, people like that, and I want to make sure that Erin has a fair shot at making it in today's day in age, and I really believe that she can be competitive. I think that once the ice is broken, that the first female comes in and stays competitive over a certain amount of time, that will open the door for a lot of people and a lot of sponsors."

Q: On characteristics he looks for in up-coming drivers

"I look at the open-wheel stuff a lot -- not that great drivers haven't come from other series, because they have. I just feel that somebody that can handle a WoO sprint car can handle almost an ill-handling machine, something that you've got to point. They have to have a quick response, certainly, and good physical conditioning and tremendous hand-eye coordination. If you're going to run a sprint car, you really have to be able to stay on top of that thing and react. You have to be able to stay on top of that steering wheel and stay ahead of what the car is doing. I feel like anybody who can drive a sprint car well and win... Again, when you win a WoO race it's pretty impressive, because there's a list of great drivers in NASCAR right now who have not been able to accomplish that. Those things, being able to react quickly, good hand-eye coordination and have a feel for staying ahead of that car..."

Q: On who first told him about Erin

"Several people have told me about Erin. I follow WoO quite a lot myself. Actually, Kasey Kahne and his brother, Kale, were some of the first people to bring her to my attention, what a great job that she does and, actually, how tough she is. I think Kasey's brother's words were, 'Look, this girl is the real deal. You need to pay attention to her.' Of course, my good friend, John Bickford, and Fred Wagenhals from Action Performance, those guys really got me to take a more serious look at what she was doing and what we could do with her. As we've grown our Dodge program and worked with driver development and diversity, it just ended up being a perfect. But, actually, the first comments about Erin came from Kasey Kahne and his brother, Kale."

Q: On the process of signing drivers

"Erin, as with Kasey, were great drivers looking for rides, and we had a place to put her. The only thing I ask when a driver comes to interview with me is if they have a contractual agreement with somebody that could cause a problem, and once they say no it really doesn't matter to me anymore. The issue is there's a lot of great young drivers out there, and all of the car companies, all of the other teams, everybody is throwing offers out to them. You've got to be able to put something down. A lot of these kids are being offered, 'Well maybe this will happen. Or, maybe we can do this. Or, maybe we can do that.' When I sit down with somebody, I tell them, 'Look, I have this amount of races. Here's what I can do for you. Maybe it'll be more, but it won't be any less.' And as I sat down with Kasey, and as I sat down with Erin, those are the things that I did. Once they say to me that they are not under a contractual agreement with another competitor or with anybody that can stop them from coming to race for us, then I start to negotiate with them. I don't want any litigation, so the first thing we do is make sure that we don't have any problem with that. What those drivers decide to do if they've had a connection or a relationship with a car company or a competitor in the past, I really can't speak to that."

Erin Crocker (Driver, Evernham Motorsports)

"Signing with Evernham Motorsports is truly a dream come true. I've always hoped for the opportunity to someday race for someone like Ray Evernham. Growing up I watched what he had done with Jeff Gordon and this past year I saw what he accomplished with a rookie driver, Kasey Kahne. I believe working with Evernham Motorsports will provide me all of the ingredients to become a successful stock car driver. Starting next year, driving a variety of different racecars will certainly be the next step to get me on pavement and get started. Also, having that opportunity to spend time with Kasey Kahne and Bill Elliott, and spend time at the race shop and at the track, to provide me a chance to learn from some of the best in the business... I started racing when I was seven years old, and I grew up watching my two brothers race. I think they taught me a lot about earning respect from the men and just how to be competitive. Next year, I want to learn as much as possible, and gain as much experience as I can, which in turn will hopefully create some strong performances. My ultimate goal is to be successful in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but I want to take the right steps in getting there. I think Ray Evernham has the same plan in mind for me, so I believe it is a perfect fit. I thought winning a World of Outlaws feature this past October was the highlight of my career, but getting a call from Ray Evernham certainly ranks right up there."

Q: On where she gets her fire to drive, compete

"Honestly, I don't know where it comes from. I've always been very competitive. I've played every sport in the book. I've played ice hockey, and I've played all of these sports with my brothers. I've always just had a really competitive fire inside me."

Q: On what it would mean to be NASCAR's first female race-winner

"It would obviously be an incredible honor. But, I'm really not doing this because I want to be the first woman to win a NASCAR event -- that would just be a bonus. I'm just really competitive, and I love racing. I just want to go out there and run hard and be competitive, so that just comes as an extra honor."

Q: On possibility of racing World of Outlaws in '05

"I think that's something that Ray and I have discussed a little bit, and if time permits and it's not going to conflict with any testing or any races, there's a chance that I may be able to get in a winged sprint car again. I've definitely enjoyed driving winged sprint cars, but this is the path I want to take. I want to be in NASCAR. I'll probably miss the sprint cars a little bit, but I'm very excited about my opportunities here."

Q: On what she'd do if she weren't racing

"If I couldn't drive I would certainly still be in the racing world. I would probably put my engineering degree to use and hopefully go to work for a big team or even a manufacturer. I've been offered opportunities in the past. If driving doesn't work out, I've been offered shop specialist opportunities and different things. I'm sure I'd still be involved in racing and, hopefully, using my engineering background."

Q: On whether stockcar racing as a long term goal of hers

"I was never really sure which direction I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to be successful, and I knew I wanted to make it to the top. I definitely, at one point, said I wanted to go open-wheel racing. But, in the last few years, I've gone to a lot of NASCAR races, and I've gone to a lot of open-wheel races. And, quite frankly, all of my heroes growing up, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, and people I used to watch run USAC races, came from the NASCAR world. So, I feel like if I want to run with the best, and I really want to be on top of the sport, then this is where I want to be."

Q: On female drivers in racing

"I wouldn't necessarily consider them heroes, but I certainly watched what they did and tried to learn from it. And I give them a lot of credit, people like Lyn St. James, Janet Guthrie and Sarah Fisher herself, have opened people's eyes to the possibility of a female being successful in this sport. So, I definitely have followed them, and I've admired what they've done, and I've tried to learn from what they've done."

Q: On making transition to pavement racing

"I think I'll keep just as busy of a schedule. I might be a little bit more in one area. But I think that I'll have enough things going on between spending time at the shop and testing, and the races I'm going to run. Hopefully, I'll get to do some midget sprint car stuff as well. I think I'll keep myself just as busy, maybe not as much time on the road, but that could be a good thing.

"That's definitely going to be a big learning curve. I've run a little bit of pavement in the past, and it's a lot different. I think that running a sprint car teaches you so much about car control that once I get the feel of these bigger, heavier cars, I'm confident it will go well. I'm sure I'm going to have a lot to learn, and it's going to be quite the process, but I'm ready for the challenge."

Q: On not competing in Turkey Night at Irwindale

"Well, before I decided to go to Tucson on Turkey Night, I kind of had to let them know about long-term plans. So, instead of going there and continuing things, I knew there were some other opportunities coming about, so I just kind of backed out. This was not the only other opportunity that was presented to me. There were a few other things going on, so I just thought it'd be best at that time if I decided not to go to those races."

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About this article
Series ARCA , NASCAR XFINITY , USAC
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Shawna Robinson , Sarah Fisher , Lyn St. James , Kasey Kahne , Janet Guthrie , Ray Evernham , Erin Crocker , Chip Ganassi , Jack Roush