Texas: Ray Evernham "Breakfast Club" interview

Nextel Breakfast Club Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, April 3, 2004 RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports) "We're doing the same things. We're just doing them better. It takes the same things to succeed as it always has. You've...

Nextel Breakfast Club
Texas Motor Speedway
Saturday, April 3, 2004

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)

"We're doing the same things. We're just doing them better. It takes the same things to succeed as it always has. You've got to have good downforce, good horsepower, good handling cars, good pit stops and good drivers. We were putting together a lot of systems that we were building and a lot of those things are starting to come together for us. We're doing all of our bodies in-house, which is something we started in our second year. We finally got our fab shop up and coming. We're starting to build our own chassis, a lot of our own suspension components. Mark McCardel and his group have done a lot to turn the engine program around. When the cars are handling on the straightaway, it's a lot easier to go fast."


"That whole deal happened kind of fast. We were certainly looking for somebody to take over for Bill (Elliott). We had expected Bill to retire at the end of 2005. We started talking to Kasey, looking at the future, and things got put in motion. Really, what sold me on Kasey, I knew about him. I watched him drive sprints and midgets and had a tremendous career doing that, but he sat in my office one day for three or four hours and talked to me about a lot of different things. I knew then he certainly had the right kind of attitude I wanted. In all reality, people ask me all the time if I'm surprised, and I'm pleasantly surprised that he has been... We didn't think he was this ready. He seems to have adapted to this Cup car without any real difficulty."


"We'd like to run Bill as many as 10-12 times, but if you look at that car it's kind of like Jeff Burton's car. It's all red. We'd love to put a primary sponsor on that thing and run some more. We've been close talking to a lot of people, but we've not been able to put any programs together. We're going to focus on the rest of this year. The car will run two or three times more this year whether or not we get a sponsor. Indianapolis will be one of those, and hopefully somebody will step up. It's a good car. I think Bill Elliott obviously does a great job and wants to run somewhere between 10-15 races. Hopefully we can put that together."


"I think he's a lot more relaxed. Certainly the grind of doing 38 weekends a year was getting to him. Bill's been injured a few times over his career and injured at Charlotte last year again. I think he feels better now physically. He loves to race. He loves to go race his dirt car. He loves to drive the Cup cars and he likes to go fast. He just doesn't feel like he wants to do it every weekend this year. I think he's a lot more relaxed, and I think you're starting to see a side to him that only people real close to him saw in the past. Now he's more relaxed and his role is kind of different. I think he is happier."


"It absolutely does. Most companies are setting their budgets in May or June. If you don't have your deals set by August of this year for 2005 you could be in trouble. We might not get anything for this year. People we're talking to might want to jump out and look for next year. I think people are looking farther and farther out into the future. You see silly season happening earlier each year. I think you're going to have to have your sponsors set earlier as these companies put their budgets together."

WHAT'S THE STATUS OF YOUR IN-HOUSE CHASSIS PROGRAM? "We've built four and we've only used two so far. Right now Bill is with stage two. Jeremy has got a brand new one, and there's a brand new one being built for Kasey. We'll see how Bill makes out with his this weekend. We'd like to start to get those things in regular rotation before the end of the season. I'm looking at having to draw a line in the sand by June, probably sometime after Charlotte to decide if we're going to go full production. Our cars are running well right now. I don't want to do anything to disrupt that. I want to make sure when we make that jump that that we're going to be as good or better."


"It absolutely was and is. That's the way the sports going. Soon you're going to have to control everything. It's so critical that you're not going to be able to rely on outside suppliers for delivery or keeping innovations in house. The best teams in the future are going to be the teams that have all that in control, whether it's bodies, chassis, suspension components, even a lot of the engine components that you used to buy like camshafts, crankshafts, connecting rods, you're seeing companies take that on themselves and having them built. That's the value of having an engine program that builds for several race teams. Now you can go out and buy 600 connecting rods instead of 60 and I think you're going to see more and more of that in the future."


"We're currently working on the 2005 model. We're actually doing some wind tunnel work with it, and we'll be doing some track testing. Dodge hasn't given us a nameplate for that car, but we expect to be able to present something to NASCAR in the near future. I'm basically part of the R&D process on that. People like John Fernandez and Bob Wildberger from Dodge would have more concrete answers on exactly when they plan to debut that car, but we're working on it."


"Absolutely, he's been a big part of it. There's several parts of it. Bill's certainly been the icing on the cake. Even yesterday when Kasey got in the car I asked him if he had talked to Bill. He said, 'oh, yeah,' and then they ran almost identical laps. Bill has offered a lot of good advice to Kasey. He's also helped our race team because he's doing all the testing on our new chassis. He's been working with the motor guys closely on developing our engines. He's really added a lot to our overall program, not just to Kasey. Kasey and Tommy (Baldwin) have a really good relationship. He trusts Tommy and they seem to have hit the chemistry extremely well. I think that's a big part of it, too."


"It's a major concern, not just for team owners but for NASCAR in general. They've been talking to seem team owners about cutting costs and where we want to go in the future. There are some suggestions about cutting costs that we're going to have to sit down and talk about. Sooner or later there's got to be a ceiling on the value of the dollar spent by the sponsor versus the return. Obviously our sport is still growing and it's exciting, but we don't want the sport to ever get to the point where you've got to have five race teams to be able to make a good business case out of it. We've lost the one race team. It's tough to make it with one race team. Now I think it's going to get tough to make it with two race teams. We've got to watch the economics and make sure we don't end up with just three or four car owners."


"I'm going to tell you, and I'm going to get in a little trouble for this. I like the racetrack, and I love the people. I was just out there doing a little autograph session and there's a gazillion fans out there. Every one of them has got something on representing their driver. That's great. The money's great, but they've got to fix the roads around here. You can't get in and out. That's the tough part. I tried to get out of here last night and the gate was locked. I'd come here five times a year if Eddie Gossage and those guys would just make it so the people could get in and out. We just need to get in and out a little better. Other than that, you couldn't ask for a better place to race. They treat everybody great. The fans are great. I think it's a good racetrack. The speeds are high, but there's a little bit of a second groove coming in. You're going to probably start seeing some of that in the Busch race today. Other than the fact you just can't get in and out of the place, I'd come here five times a year."


"Judging by the way Bill is right now... Sometimes when I ask him a question he'll say, 'Let me think about that. No.' I don't think he would want to come back full time, but he does want to run 10-15 races and he wants to do that two or three years. He's not really ready to quit yet. It's been difficult finding a sponsor for those races, so we haven't really been searching for anybody on a full time basis. If we were to find somebody on a full time basis, you might see something like what Richard Childress and some of the guys are doing. I think that's a great idea. You might see somebody in the car part time. You're going to see a lot more switching drivers and switching sponsors. That might be a direction this sport is heading for. I'm not saying it would be out of the question to see Bill Elliott in a car for 15 races and somebody else in it for the others."


"I thought it was cool. He didn't need to announce to everybody he did it. Everybody thinks about it. Everybody's done it. I think Terry stopped on the front straightaway one time at North Wilkesboro and got penalized a lap. Everybody's kinda done it, but Junior didn't need to tell everybody he did it on purpose. He would have been all right. When you're running for a championship and you're doing things.... Everybody who's ever been a short track racer you've either done it yourself or spun somebody else out to get a caution. At least he didn't spin anybody else out."


"Jeremy actually ran second at Atlanta, and he had a very good car at Rockingham. They knocked the tire over the fence one time and got to the tail end of the longest line. He got a pit road penalty and he got a lap down under green. I think he could have easily been sitting on a top five finish at Rockingham. At Darlington he had a top five car and we messed him up in the pits all day long, and he finished ninth. Jeremy is there. Jeremy is a guy that I'm confident could run our car in the top 10 everywhere we go. There's not many guys in the garage area who could do that. Jeremy has done it on road courses, speedways, and he's a good, solid top-10 contender. At certain tracks he's going to be a threat to win. Jeremy has never been the type of guy who is going to go out and win you 10 races a year, but I look at him as a good, solid team player. This year we've caused him some finishes as a team, and we need to work on our pit stops and race strategies and things like that. We hurt him again last week at Bristol. I think Jeremy is there. You've just not seen it because we've hurt him."


"I don't know. You guys will have to tell me. It's hard for me to judge sometimes if we're having good races or bad races. What's a good race? Every race I go to is a good race for me because I look at it in a different way. We look at pit stops and how our strategy goes. Whether there's side by side racing, I thought Vegas was a pretty good race. We'll see here. The shorter they make the spoiler, the harder it's going to be to race side by side. We've got to get to the point where there's almost no spoiler on these cars if we want to race side by side. I made a suggestion one time. Take two bear chassis to the racetrack and keep running around side by side and put enough body on them until it makes a difference and then stop. As long as there's any spoiler, it's going to be tough to run side by side no matter how soft you make the tire. The higher the speed on the racetrack, the more finer than line is. A place like this, it's going to be very difficult for cars to run identical speeds side by side. That doesn't mean you're not going to see a good race. You're going to see a lot of passing up off the corner here in turn four. The guys that are good up off turn two are going to be good. You don't have to run side by side to have a good race."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , John Fernandez , Ray Evernham