Watkins Glen: Ray Evernham - Dodge Friday interview

RAY EVERNHAM, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GILLETT EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT ON MONDAY? "It's something we've been working on for quite some time with the Gillett family. We've been really, really close and worked...

RAY EVERNHAM, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GILLETT EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS

WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT ON MONDAY? "It's something we've been working on for quite some time with the Gillett family. We've been really, really close and worked through the weekend and got it done on Monday. It will allow us to go forward and continue to grow the company in a way that we want to. A partnership with Gillett brings a lot of things for Evernham Motorsports in terms of A) it will allow me to concentrate a little bit more on the competition side but it also allows us to be in touch with other professional sports and sports marketing programs and some entertainment and recreational things across the country, across the world that we would never had access to."

IS IT HARD TO LET GO OF SOME OF THE OWNERSHIP? "You always have mixed emotions when you build something from the ground up. But you also have to look to what you want to accomplish. As the sport changes, the job gets bigger. I was saying to somebody the other day that all of a sudden you're the world champion plate spinner and it goes from spinning 10 plates to spinning 20 plates. Sometimes you've got to have a little bit of help. My goal is to win the championship. The direction the sport has grown, there's no way I was going to be able to accomplish that on my own. You'll see in the future that there are very few teams that are owned by a single person. It was a perfect opportunity because George does the things that I need someone else to do. He can open doors for the company that I just couldn't open. It will allow me to focus on the competition side, which he doesn't do."

WHAT DOES KYLE BUSCH'S DECISION DO TO YOUR PLANS? "We're still business as usual. Again, there's no sense in adding a fourth car until you know you can perform well with it. We're going to focus on making the three that we have perform. I hate that we didn't get Kyle, but our performance isn't where it needs to be so I certainly understand why we didn't get a driver but maybe made a new friend. I've also got a lot of respect for Kyle and learned a lot about him that I hope a lot of other people will learn that he's really a good kid and very mature and professional for 22 years old."

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE NO. 10 NOW? "It's all about points. We've got to get it back up in points. We appreciate Scott being willing to step aside to maybe having a shot at Patrick maybe finishing a little bit better on the road course than Scott. We'll have Scott certainly right back in there next weekend at Michigan. Our goal is to get that thing in the top 35 in points. We've got to keep building it stronger and stronger. Right now it was the best thing for all of us to do, looking at Scott's history of qualifying and finishing here, was to put a road racer in there. Patrick did a great job Saturday in Montreal. With George's Montreal connection it was kind of a no-brainer."

ARE YOU A HOCKEY FAN, AS WELL? "It's not that I'm not a hockey fan but I don't really follow a lot of professional sports. All I ever really followed is racing. I'm starting to learn a little bit about hockey. I've been to the Bell Centre now and been to a Canadiens game. The one thing you do learn is that hockey players are much bigger and in much better shape than you think they are."

WILL YOU MAKE ALL OF THE RACING DECISIONS? "We're still trying to work through those things. Right now, nothing's changed. I'm pretty much the CEO of the company and I'm still making a lot of the business decisions. I'm hoping to come up with a system that we decide what George is going to support. I'm always going to have a pretty big vote in whatever happens, whether it's business or competition. But, I really want to hand off some of the day-to-day business stuff to other people. It's going to be a transition because I've done it all for so long. There's going to be some good support there but I've still got to bring them up to speed. I'm going to focus as much time as I can on building our new cars and making sure our engines are going in the right direction with this new Dodge R-6 engine and the COT program is on track. It's certainly not going to cut down on any of the time that I'm spending but eventually it will be bigger as I get some new people trained."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT KASEY RUNNING IN KNOXVILLE? "I don't always feel super about him being in a sprint car but he's a racer. We've not had a great year and if it helps his attitude and helps him do some things, it's just not fair to keep a guy from doing what he wants. I know you have responsibility to sponsors and know that you have responsibilities but he's a racer. Those are the things that got him here. This year we haven't given him a lot to cheer about so hopefully that made him happy and he didn't hurt himself."

YOU STILL NEED TO SIGN SCOTT RIGGS' CONTRACT? "Scott and I are still talking. We've got some options and we've not closed anything yet. I want Scott to be a part of our program next year. We've got to bring up overall performance as a big part that's on my shoulders. He can help us do that. As the thing grows, I want Scott to be part of it."

ARE YOU ANY CLOSER TO ANNOUNCING SPONSORS? "Not closer. It's like the Gillett deal, there are just so many things. Obviously we're talking to some people. We'd like things to happen. There are a lot of things that have to fall into line perfectly for something to happen. Without trying to dance around like I was on the George deal, when it's the hands and going back and forth you never know if there's an insurmountable hurdle or not. Right now it still looks like we're shooting for the next two or three weeks to be able to talk about where we're headed with sponsorship. But you don't know if that could turn into five or six weeks with one swipe of the pen."

IS THAT ON THEIR END OR YOUR END? "I think on both ends. It has to work out perfectly -- it has to be a good deal for everybody on both ends."

IS THIS YEAR A SETBACK AFTER WINNING SIX RACES LAST YEAR? "It's been hard, there's no doubt. I think it's been the hardest competitive year of my life. I don't think I've ever been involved in a race team in 30 years that's run this bad, ever. That's something that you grow into. I accept the responsibility for it. It's on my shoulders to change it. But it's been very difficult not only on me but everybody here. You've just got to keep knowing that you're going to get it turned around. As somebody that's competitive and feels responsibility to the people who put money in this program and the drivers that believe in it, it's been a tough year. All you can do is look for. It's tough business, and like Elliott Sadler says 'There's just days you've got to get up in the morning and put your big boy britches on and go to work'."

WHO MIGHT BE A FAVORITE GOING INTO THE CHASE? "That Chase really throws a good thing into the mix. If you look historically, there's people who have really turned it on at the end of the year and other guys in the middle of the year. Jeff seems to be on his game and when Jeff's on his game he's tough to beat. Tony's strong and who knows. I have to tell you that I haven't really looked that much at the people up there because we've been looking so hard at our own problems. If my guys can't win it, then I'd love to see Jeff win his fifth."

WHEN YOU WERE IN IT LAST YEAR, DID YOU SAVE SOME STUFF FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? "Normally we would bring out some new motor combinations and things like that. We felt like largely it was some bad luck that kept Kasey out of a better finishing position last year. I don't think we were strong enough to win it but we surely could have finished in the top five. But we wrecked at a couple of places and blew an engine, things like that. Last year the things that hurt us hurt us all year. Crashes and blown engines. This year it's just been non-performance. We're still crashing, we're just crashing a lot slower."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FORMAT OF THE CHASE? "It's no different than the way it used to be with people winning the championship without winning a race. You know what the points system is going in and you know what the rules are going in and that's just the way it is now, the same as it was under the other points system. You just live with it. There was some value to the old points system and there's some value to the new points system. I think the new points system in the Chase does add excitement at the end of the year. Everybody knows that TV ratings have to be up because that's what drives the real estate up on these cars. If the real estate is not up on these cars, then we can't afford to do it anyway."

DID YOU TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM LAST YEAR'S CHASE? "That seems like so long ago. We thought we had learned enough. We thought we were going into this year better than we were last year. We tested harder, we worked on the proper things, we thought we had been prepared. This year we're not even close to making the Chase, we're just trying to get back up to able to run consistently in the top 10 and the top five."

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TANK ON YOUR PROPERTY? "That's not done yet. They're still trying to figure out ecologically what to do. I'd be lying if I told you. I imagine I'm going to get a bill for it, but I don't know what they're doing with it. I think they just signed a deal that we're fixing it but I don't know what we're doing."

HOW IS YOUR ORGANIZATION COMING ALONG WITH THE CAR OF TOMORROW? "I think it will even things out. I think it will eventually stop us from spending more money. I think we started out good with it but got spread a little bit thin. I think we've got a good plan right now to go get us competitive going forward. Right now, you hate to go 'This year's kind of shot' but we're going to be rebuilding and moving a lot of people around this year. We're building a bunch of new COTs and a bunch of new engines and we're going to take a different path than we've been on. The one good thing about the COT is that once your figure one out you can build them all the same."

ARE THE MERGERS CAUSING OLDER DRIVERS TO BE PUSHED ASIDE IN FAVOR OF THE YOUNGER GUYS? "I don't think that's got anything to do with the mergers, I think that's just the way it's going. I've said for years that this sport, the bigger it gets, the more money that comes into it, you're going to see the driver age coming down. It's going to get more and more like Formula One. There's not going to be guys here anymore at 45 or 46 years of age that are here just because they can make the races. As the cars become more technical and they get more alike, you don't need that information base of being able to go around a racetrack for the past 20 years. You're going to see that average age coming down. You're going to see the average age of drivers, crew chiefs, crew members coming down because you're not going to stay in this sport for 20 years racing 38 or 40 weekends a year. It just can't happen."

HOW MUCH DOES IT HURT A DRIVER LIKE JEFF GORDON TO HAVE HIS CREW CHIEF ABSENT? "It doesn't look like it's bothering him a lot. That's one good thing about Jeff, he can carry the deal on his own. The Hendrick organization has a ton of depth, but when you've got a driver that's as good as Jeff he can guide a young crew chief to make the right decisions. That's invaluable to a guy. It always was to me. There are some really good drivers in the garage area, but not a lot of them can really help you get that car set up and Jeff Gordon was always one of the best at that. There are some others that I certainly haven't worked with. I'm sure that Tony is, and there some good guys like Kurt and Kyle Busch, guys that can really help you get the car set up right. I think Jeff can really help a young crew chief."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ray Evernham , Elliott Sadler , Kyle Busch