Dover II: Ray Evernham interview

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports) WAS THE 19 TEAM UPSET AFTER NEW HAMPSHIRE? "When things are out of your control like that it doesn't really upset them. Certainly they were mad about it, but they knew they had a good car....

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)

WAS THE 19 TEAM UPSET AFTER NEW HAMPSHIRE?

"When things are out of your control like that it doesn't really upset them. Certainly they were mad about it, but they knew they had a good car. They took it in the garage and repaired it and brought it back on the track and it was still one of the fastest cars. These guys are far from down. They have been a different race team since they won at Richmond."

HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU ABOUT YOUR TEAM GETTING CAUGHT UP IN AN ACCIDENT IN THE LAST 10 RACES?

"You're always concerned. Obviously there's a lot more on the line now because there's not a lot of time to make it up. I guess that's the biggest difference, but if you look back to other times we got caught up with Tony Stewart or Junior it was still costly. Any time you get caught up in a wreck it's costly. Now the focus is probably more on it. I'm certainly upset with the situation, but that was last week. This is this week, and it really doesn't do any good hashing back."

IS THERE A PLACE FOR PAYBACKS?

"Not on the racetrack. I'm sorry. That's the old school in me. That's something the drivers need to settle. I know people don't like it when I talk like that, but when it happens on the racetrack it doesn't affect drivers as much as people who own the cars and people who work on them. When one driver takes out another driver neither one of them have to worry about the car. All these guys who are already working 12-16 hours a day have to work on it. The sponsors pay for it. If the drivers have a problem with each other they need to settle it off the racetrack just like Jeremy said."

ADDITIONAL COMMENT ON PAYBACKS

"It's a professional sport and by and large we don't have that problem. For as many guys that race at this level, it doesn't happen as much as it probably does in some other forms of sports. I don't think there's a major problem with that. I do think NASCAR made the right call addressing it. I think Richard Childress set a good example by putting Robby on probation. I think the sponsors and owners are going to take care of that themselves. My guys both know that I won't tolerate anything like that. I think if the other owners and sponsors take a stand, I think it'll take care of itself. Guys like that will work their way out of the sport. If you're going to do things like that, you won't be at this level."

SHOULD NASCAR HAVE TAKEN A STAND WHEN ROBBY MADE THE COMMENT ON THE RADIO?

"I can't speak to that because I don't know if they actually heard it or not. I think if they actually heard it they would. I have been talked to

on the radio before about calming drivers down and stuff like that. I think if they would have heard it they would have said something, but it's hard to say not knowing what they heard or didn't hear. Sometimes people say things in anger that they don't do. That's really a hard call to make. When do you draw the line between conspiracy and what's actually going to happen? I think they need to be aware. You've got guys not in the Chase that are still running good. NASCAR needs to take a stand like owners do and sponsors do and say, 'we're not going to have this. If you do this and we prove you do this, you're going to sit out.' If they start to sit out like some of the baseball players.... I think collectively that's got to be between NASCAR, the owners and sponsors to make sure this doesn't happen."

COMMENT ON THE PLAYOFF SYSTEM

"I was against it in the beginning and I look like an idiot now because it's been probably the best thing that's ever happened to us. I think we're getting a fair shot, and I think the thing is doing exactly what they said it would do. I'm going to keep my mouth shut and observe a little bit. If I had it my way, we wouldn't be doing it right now. I would have cut my own nose off. I think they've done a pretty good job with it."

DOES IT NEED ADJUSTMENTS?

"I don't know. I think we've got to go through it and find out what happens. I think it's too early to tell if we need to adjust it. It's been great. Unfortunately there's 15 top-10 cars and not everybody is in it. We were real close at Richmond to having 13 or 14 cars in it."

WHAT TYPE OF ADVICE ARE YOU GIVING JEREMY ABOUT RUNNING FOR THE TITLE? "Really the only advice I can give to the whole team is to do the best they can. They've got to do what got 'em here and what got 'em here is running hard and working hard and trying to pay attention to basics. I think right now Jeremy is as much on top of his game as he's ever been. His confidence is up. He's been fast every time he's in the car. He tested at Kentucky the other day and he was blazing. Their confidence is up and I'm just going to let 'em go wide open. Their only shot to win the thing is to do what they did at Richmond, go and do everything they can do. That's what I want them to do. I don't want them to hold back. I don't want them to try to points race. I want them to go out there and lead every lap and win."

DO YOU THINK DOVER SHOULD STAY AS ONE OF THE FINAL 10 RACES?

"Yeah, I do because probably seven out of these next nine tracks are good for us. We've run good at seven of the next nine. We've been really weak at Martinsville and Talladega, and that's probably going to hurt us, but we've worked on our speedway

program and hope we've got that better, and Jeremy and the 19 car have tested at Martinsville, so hopefully we can do better there. The Charlottes and Atlantas and Kansas, Darlington, Homestead, our stuff has run pretty good there."

COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE'S SEASON

"He's got 10 top-five finishes, so I tell him great job. Plenty of guys would love to have his record. He's just got to focus on doing his job. You can't keep running second. You've got to win sooner or later. He knows he's going to win sooner or later. That's basically a new team. They've got 27 starts and 10 of those are top fives. I just tell 'em great job."

SHOULD A SECOND OFFENSE CARRY A HARSHER PENALTY?

"I think the fact they took action was definitely moving in the right direction. They penalized him two laps and would not allow him to make the laps up with the Lucky Dog. That put him back in the field. With any kind of court case with different crimes, there is different punishment. So without any long drawn out process, I think that's what they could do immediately. I remember when the penalty box used to be five laps. Maybe you look at the severity of the penalty and count laps. The fact they took immediate action, I think that will definitely set the tone in the garage area. They looked at it, and it was done and they took action and took away any chance he had at a top-25 finish. I felt good about that."

COMMENT ON OWNER PROBATION

"I think other owners and sponsors have to stand with a guy like that. If it is a really good driver and a championship-caliber driver and he's not paying attention then he's going to get set down or do whatever, and the other owners and sponsors are going to stand with the guy that sat him down. They're not going to worry about 'oh you can come over here and drive.' I think we've all got to stand together and say the sport has got to come first and you can't be tearing up equipment out there."

DOES NASCAR NEED TO SAY ANYTHING TO THE DRIVERS OUTSIDE THE TOP 10? "I don't think they should tell them to race more carefully. Everybody is racing. Everybody has got a right to race. When they drop that green flag, every one of those 43 guys are going for the win. I don't care about guys racing my guys hard, but doing something stupid, like was done last week, yeah, I think everybody needs to be talked to about that, not just the guys outside the top 10. The guys inside the top 10, I wouldn't want to see guys inside the top 10 retaliating and taking guys outside the top 10 that had a shot to win or do something stupid. When you get to drive at this level, you've got a professional responsibility to the fans and other drivers and your sponsors to make sure you drive professionally, using your head, whether you're first or 43rd."

HOW HARD WILL IT BE TO POLICE NEXT WEEK AT TALLADEGA?

"I don't think you'll have a problem. People aren't going to be running into one another at Talladega. I don't think there's going to be a problem. Talladega will probably be the least of their problems. That's not a place you see drivers run into one another."

CAN MAYFIELD BEAT JEFF GORDON?

"People do it every day. There's certain times that trigger different athletes and a guy steps up and they don't know what pushes them over the edge. Maybe they've had that ability all along and something brings it out. Jeremy is as focused and as determined as I've ever seen him. He knows he's got some great competition, but maybe he's had it within him to do it all along and now he sees it and believes it. We've all seen traces of talent and focus and ability from Jeremy. Now maybe he sees it himself. Sometimes when you believe you can beat those guys, you can beat 'em."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THE TV RATINGS WERE DOWN FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE?

"I was and I wasn't. There's been a lot of things going on and some other sports have been down. I guess we were down six percent from last year, but I think that's been straight across the board at most places. It's kind of like being in the stock market. I'm going to give you an answer like your broker does. Compared to the market, you've done well. Compared to the market, I think we've done OK."

HAVE YOU HEARD ANYTHING FROM SPONSORS ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE?

"It was a battle just to make it. I think they're happy we made it and we had two cars that had a legitimate shot at making it. We're a fourth year team starting from scratch. It's not like we are a 20-year team. We're a fourth year team with one guys that's a rookie who had never seen some of these places in a Cup car, and he almost made it. We've got more top fives, more top 10s, more laps led, more poles, more everything except in the win column and I think our sponsors have been ecstatic. We've got more TV coverage, our Joyce Julius numbers are tripled what they were last year. It's been a really good year for us so far."

ARE YOU CONCERNED KASEY MIGHT BE OVERLOOKED IN THE LAST 10 RACES? "I don't think Kasey Kahne has got to worry about getting overlooked. Based on his second appearance at Loudon in a Cup car. The first time eighth, the second time fourth. He almost won this race in the spring. I don't think he's a guy who's got to worry about getting overlooked. I really feel confident that he's going to be challenging for wins at the end of the season."

DO YOU CRUNCH NUMBERS FOR THE POINTS CHASE?

"I've been looking more at my budget numbers, not the computer. That's my job now. It used to be to crunch all the points. Now we're trying to put our Busch program and everything together. We're looking more at our budget numbers. All we worry about is running good. If you run good, it's going to take care of itself. The only time we really look at points and strategy points-wise was at Richmond. Again, that was so stressful, I hope we don't have to do that anymore."

COMMENT ON BUSCH PROGRAM

"It's coming together. Hopefully we'll make some announcements. We're definitely going to have one full-time Busch car and we're probably going to have a part-time Busch car. I want to be able to announce everything at one time, but we're going to have some kind of a Busch program next year for sure. It's close. I don't have all the details yet. If we're going to get to where we need to be, we've got to be working on driver development. Jack Roush has probably done the best job at it, and Rick has done a good job. We need to get right in there with having our own AAA team. There are a lot of good drivers out there, and we've got to have a process to get them up to Cup. Right now, we've got to put that process together. There are a lot of hungry drivers out there, and we're getting calls from all over the country. We're starting to get tons of resumes."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kasey Kahne , Ray Evernham , Jack Roush