Charlotte: Dodge this - Ray Evernham interview

Tuesday, May 20, 2003. Dodge This Teleconference Ray Evernham, Mike Ford RAY EVERNHAM (Team Owner Evernham Motorsports) "As of last night, Bill (Elliott) has told me he's cleared to drive. He does have three broken bones in his foot, but he...

Tuesday, May 20, 2003.
Dodge This Teleconference Ray Evernham, Mike Ford

RAY EVERNHAM (Team Owner Evernham Motorsports)

"As of last night, Bill (Elliott) has told me he's cleared to drive. He does have three broken bones in his foot, but he was with an orthopedic doctor in Georgia and also we've been back and forth in communication with Dr. Terry Trammel out of Indianapolis. He's in the process of making up a carbon fiber foot sole and foot protector for Bill. I guess this is a pretty common injury in open wheel racing. They do have carbon fiber braces, and Bill is being fitted with one of those today. He has no other injuries other than the bones in his foot. He had a lot of praise about the HANS, and as far as the seat and the things the guys on the 9 team have specifically worked on to protect the inside of the car. The number we got on the G meter from NASCAR was 48 Gs, so it was a pretty hard hit. I'm not sure about the broken foot, whether it was hyper extended. It was not from hitting the brake pedal or anything like that. Again, he has no other injuries and feels great. I talked to him several times yesterday. He's looking forward to it and doesn't feel like there's going to be any issues this week."

ANY PLANS FOR A STANDBY DRIVER?

"We actually talked to Ted Musgrave, and we'll play that by ear. Bill feels really good. Ted has agreed to stand by if needed, but we'll make that decision as we go a little further into the week."

HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE WORKLOAD?

"You drop the ball once in awhile. That's how you do it. You get a lot of support from a lot of good people. We're growing more and more. I think I've said over and over again that I'm much more comfortable on the mechanical side. My job now is to handle a lot of the administrative stuff. The way you try and deal without dropping the ball is with a good staff of people. I've got some good mechanical and technical people here, and I've also got a good administrative staff. As Winston Cup Racing continues to grow and becomes more and more a huge professional sports franchise, there is a lot more to do. I've been actually looking for help and talking to people out of other business areas, not necessarily to deal with racing, people that understand big companies and big franchises."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WINSTON FORMAT?

"You have mixed emotions. Obviously, that's what The Winston is about, but we don't need to put these guys in more danger than they need to be in. Let's face it. A shootout like that, people going for a million bucks, you're going to cut it a little bit closer. We can't ever forget is that as safe as we try to make these cars and with the HANS devices and things we're doing to the seats and things like that, these guys still get hurt. Racing is a tough sport, period. It's a dangerous sport. It's a great sport, but it's a dangerous sport, so we should not consciously add more danger to it with red flags and double-file restarts and stuff like that. If you want to see a good race, let's race the way we race but let's not add any more danger to it."

UNDER THE CURRENT FORMAT, WOULD YOU HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT COMING BACK TO THE WINSTON NEXT YEAR?

"The Winston is a big race. I'm not the type of person that wants to be a problem. I'd rather be part of the solution, so I'd rather say I'll come back but let's look at how we can avoid putting our drivers in danger. Let's look at how we can concentrate on the guy's that's got a fast car is going to win. The fans want to see a good race. You can start single file and see a good race. You don't have to red flag things for a two-lap shootout. We'll deal with it. We've had plenty of finishes that have finished under caution, but what don't need to do is throw in creating excitement for a show. People want to see good racing, but they don't want to see cars banging on the wall and drivers going to the hospital."

WHAT IS JEREMY MAYFIELD'S FUTURE WITH EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS?

"Jeremy Mayfield is in the 19 car. There is no question about his future. That's up to you guys in the media thing. Jeremy and I both said a month ago we're working as hard as we can work. We're hoping and praying we can turn this deal around. He's giving a great effort. The guys on the 19 are giving a great effort. They're probably closer than you think. It's not an easy sport. They're missing a couple of small ingredients and we're just trying to go forward and win some races and get that thing up front. I don't read (reports). I guess it's no different than if you saw your name in the National Enquirer. You know what's true and you know what isn't. We've said our official statement. He's not happy with his performance. I'm not happy with the overall 19's performance and they're not either. We're all working hard. It doesn't make it any better reading that stuff. As long as we keep communicating and digging hard and holding hands that's all we can do."

DID BILL ELLIOTT HIT HIS FOOT ON ANYTHING?

"He didn't hit it on anything. Either the force of his foot being on the brake and the shock coming up through it or being over extended... Where your foot bends when you walk, right in the ball of your foot, what could have happened there, he had his foot on the brake and when he hit the wall it just over extended the tops of his toes and the ball of his foot. It was either that or just the force of his foot being on the brake, but he didn't hit it on anything. Let's say you had a wooden block on the bottom of your foot and somebody hit it with a baseball bat. It'd still send a shock up through your foot. It could have either been that or as I said, overextended."

WHAT'S BILL ELLIOTT'S FUTURE WITH EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS?

"Bill is under contract with me through 2005 and we just kind of play it by ear. I told him that car is his as long as he wants to drive it. I'm sure there's days he thinks that and there's days I'd like to be with him (on snowboard in Vail, Colo.) We know that Bill can't do this forever. He's promised to give me enough notice. We're working with Dodge on a lot of driver development things. Dodge has a program that we're trying to find some guys, but do I have a person in mind and say here's who's going to replace Bill when he retires? I don't. This is a new organization. We're still scrambling to get it going, and I've not been able to do a driver development program as much as I'd like to. There's lot of things that could go on. We're still working with Casey Atwood, and that's not to say he's never going to be back in one of the red cars. There's lot of things going on, but I don't have a set plan."

DID YOU NOTICE A LIFT WITH THE CARS IN THE WINSTON?

"I didn't see anything different than we normally do. In Ryan's situation, when you get the right rear quarterpanel right up against the left rear wheel or C pillars of the car he was alongside of. You've got no air coming over your deck lid that way. Then when Tony got behind him, it took the rest of the air off the spoiler. When you're in the tri-oval those cars are really a lot looser than you'd think. They're turning, and it's flat, so when you all of a sudden go from downforce and pick that air up and it lifts, it'll spin the car out. I've seen that lots and lots of times at a lot of different tracks. I don't think we're going to be faced with anything more than the 600. The track was somewhat tight in The Winston, and they probably had the spoilers laid down a little bit and that might have made the situation worse in The Winston."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE FOUND GOOD AERO BALANCE WITH THE DODGE?

"No, not yet. We had it last year, but all this new body stuff.... My red Intrepids have not had what we had last year. We're working on getting it."

ANY OTHER CHANGES YOU'D MAKE TO THE WINSTON FORMAT?

"I don't know that I'd change a bunch. If you look at The Winston historically, all the bad wrecks have been after a restart. With all those double-file restarts, it's hard. Those cars are going so fast, when you put them double file all the time, you're inviting something to happen. I think if they'd just drop that it'd probably make everybody feel a little bit better. I'm not saying they're not going to wreck. They probably are, but if they do wreck it's not going to be a bunch of cars and it's probably not going to be that severe. I'm fine with inverting the field. I think it's great to keep the race short and let the guy adjust on his car. That'll make the racing exciting, but I just don't agree with putting those guys at risk with double-file restarts. When you've got a double-file restart with two laps to go that's a recipe for disaster. I want to go to California twice, but I don't want to lose the Southern 500 to do it, that's for sure. The Winston, the whole Charlotte weak is good for the race teams because we're home. Charlotte is an exciting place, and I think they do a good job with The Winston. If The Winston went away and they made it a points race, well, so be it. It would have to grow our sport. I wouldn't want to have The Winston moved somewhere else and still run The Winston. If The Winston does go away and they put a points race in there, then that's probably better for our sport. If we're going to continue to run The Winston, I'd just as soon run it at Charlotte."

WHERE IS THE BIGGEST SHORTCOMING WITH YOUR PROGRAM?

"The truth is it's just newness still. We all know what to do, we've just not had enough time to do it. I underestimated the time it would take to build an organization as strong as I want to do it. I've got high expectations for this organization. We've had personnel changes. We've been handed some rule changes. We're still building buildings and growing and we just haven't had enough time yet. It's been tough building this from scratch. Our shortcoming is we're new."

DOES IT BENEFIT THE SPORT TO HAVE A DOMINANT DRIVER?

"I think it does. Fans want a guy that dominates. Right now, nobody is dominating by having 10 races a year, but if you look at Matt Kenseth last year winning five and I guess Kurt Busch won four or five. I think you're looking at a couple of guys that could do that again this year. I believe Kurt Busch could win a string of races or possibly Jimmie Johnson. I think it's good. A couple of things are good for the sport. You've got to have at least somebody that wins more than everybody else, and you've got to have a couple of guys fighting a little bit. I think controversy is good and a guy that wins a lot. People loved Earnhardt and Michael Jordon. I think with some of these young guys coming along you're going to see one of them step into that role. Somebody is going to do it. I stand back and look, and I think if the right driver gets in the right combination with his team, I believe it's still possible."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Kurt Busch , Ted Musgrave , Ray Evernham