Industry Leader Balances Interests in NASCAR with Racetrack Ownership, Driver Development, Racecar Engineering and Television Broadcasting MOORESVILLE, NC (January 27, 2009) - Ray Evernham has been long known for his leadership atop the pit box...
Industry Leader Balances Interests in NASCAR with Racetrack Ownership, Driver Development, Racecar Engineering and Television Broadcasting
MOORESVILLE, NC (January 27, 2009) - Ray Evernham has been long known for his leadership atop the pit box of NASCAR stars like Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, guidance of Dodge's return to NASCAR racing and technological innovation that changed the sport.
Evernham announced today that he officially is passing the torch on race team entrepreneurship to new team owners like Tony Stewart and Tommy Baldwin. He will now focus his attention on broadcasting, preserving racing venues for future generations, helping develop young drivers and setting new records.
"I'm proud of the accomplishments I've achieved with my colleagues and partners over more than two decades in racing, from the early days in IROC to the championship years with Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff Gordon to leading Dodge's return to NASCAR as a team owner," said Evernham. "It has been an amazing journey, and I've been fortunate to work with some incredible people and gain invaluable experience throughout the years."
Evernham is relinquishing his leadership role at Richard Petty Motorsports to pursue new Ray Evernham Enterprises Museum opportunities in motorsports, from grassroots racing to NASCAR and beyond. He is focusing his short-term efforts on establishing Ray Evernham Enterprises, broadcasting races for ESPN, managing East Lincoln Speedway, opening a new museum and entertainment facility in Mooresville, NC, (shown at right), helping develop young drivers and designing racecars for several key events.
"I'm not retiring from racing or putting NASCAR on a back burner," he noted. "I'm committed to the growth and success of the sport overall, and to building championship teams and organizations in many different levels of racing in the future. I spent my first decade in racing driving and working on racecars. My next decade I went from a rookie crew chief to a NASCAR champion. My third decade I had the opportunity to lead a manufacturer back into the sport and own a team. Who knows what my fourth decade in the sport will hold?"
Evernham, whom motorsports media voted "The Greatest Crew Chief of All Time", won three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships as Jeff Gordon's crew chief and led Dodge in its re-entry into NASCAR.
Long term, Evernham is looking at long-term opportunities to contribute his technological expertise, operational excellence, innovation and racing business acumen to the NASCAR business community as it redefines itself in the current economy.
"I wish Richard Petty and the entire Petty organization success in their new partnership with George Gillett," added Evernham. "I'm proud of what I accomplished there, and am proud to see the Petty name live on as part of that organization." Ray Evernham will retain select contractual obligations to Richard Petty Motorsports, including a minority ownership in the race team and a consulting agreement with the team.
Evernham has several projects on his plate, with plans for many more in the future. While he has been competing at Daytona in some form since 1984, this year he isn't as busy preparing for the start of the NASCAR season. But, certainly isn't relaxing in his retirement nor has he ruled out future involvement in the Sprint Cup Series.
Evernham Purchases East Lincoln Speedway
Evernham recently purchased the East Lincoln Speedway, a 3/8 mile dirt track located on Evernham at East Lincoln Speedway Mariposa Road in Lincoln County, NC. The facility was built by Ralph Nantz and opened for racing in 1990. The 2009 season will mark its 19th consecutive year of racing. The Speedway runs various classes of cars ranging from Micro-sprints to Late Model Modified-Sportsman.
"When I sold the majority interest in Evernham Motorsports to George Gilllett in 2007, one of my goals was to find ways to give back to the sport and help up-and-coming drivers find a safe, low-cost way to race," said Evernham. "Unfortunately, rising property values and land development have taken away many of the great dirt tracks around the country. With the acquisition of the East Lincoln Speedway, I can make sure that racers in the Charlotte area will have access to a safe, low-cost, family friendly racing facility for many years to come."
The transaction was negotiated by Bob Mack, who also will be a minority owner of the speedway.
Setting the Land Speed Record
Working with NHRA star Doug Herbert, Evernham is helping design and build a land speed car to break the 500 mph land speed for a piston-driven car. They are planning to make their attempt in August 2009 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Herbert is participating in the land speed record effort car in honor of his B.R.A.K.E.S. Foundation.
Creating Racing Opportunities for Young Stars
To help young - and young-at-heart -- racers afford to compete in safe, reliable cars, Evernham is helping promote a class of four-cylinder speedsters for Tobias Speedsters for Rich Tobias from Pennsylvania and helping field cars for qualified racers. The speedsters, designed for racing on pavement or dirt tracks, are available for approximately $17,000 with the engine included.
"It's hard to be able to afford to make the transition to a larger car and get the experience you need," he said. "I want to give young people who have talent and a commitment to furthering their experience an affordable way to move to the next level."
Evernham on ESPN
Evernham will continue his duties in the booth for ESPN with co-hosts Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Alan Bestwick for a number of NASCAR races throughout the season. He also will be at the ESPN Studios on Mondays as a host of "NASCAR Now".
Rick Hendrick on Ray Evernham:
What do you see as his legacy?
He is just so innovative. He brought such new thinking and ideas to this sport, from the way you train a pit crew to the way you organize, the way you hire them, he really kind of brought our company to a new level and a new way of thinking. I think he revolutionized the sport. He opened the doors for a lot of engineering and other people. He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met. He's just got tons and tons of talent. What he did to start teams from scratch, to build what he built is unbelievable in the short period of time he did it in. I know how hard it is. He's quite a talented guy and it's just amazing his energy level and what he's willing to sacrifice to get the job done, always thinking outside the box. He's one of my best friends. I hated to see him go. The day he told me what he wanted to do it tore me up. At the same time, I did it. I left a guy to start my own business and I was happy for him. I wasn't real happy to have to race against him, but he did a super job. I'm just real happy for him. I'm kinda jealous that he messes with his old cars now. We've been promising each other that we're going to get a sandwich for about two years, so maybe we'll get it done this winter.
What attracted you to him?
Just when you talk to him and you meet him and you listen to him, his approach to things and his organizational skills. His ability to attract people and know what to do, not willing to settle for mediocre results and have a plan of how to get there. Some of the things he talked with me about, I said, 'I don't know about that.' Then you watch them unfold and you're really impressed.
What was one of the best moments you guys had together?
Some of the most heartfelt moments was when I walked into the hospital in New York when Ray J was diagnosed with Leukemia and he wasn't expecting me. I walked down the hall and they were sitting on a bed. I remember the emotions we felt then, and then the day I had to tell him I had Leukemia. We've been through some real trauma in life, too.
He got me my first championship, so that was real special. I never thought I would win one of those things.
If you had to pick a new career for him, what would it be?
Anything he wants to do. He can run any kind of business. He can do whatever he wants to do. He's that smart. He can adapt to anything. He can do what he wants to do. He's the kind of guy that sets a goal and then a goal of how to achieve it. He's unbelievable. He can do whatever he wants to do.
Bill Elliott on Ray Evernham
What do you think he'll pursue next?
He'll be back, some how, some way.
What will he be doing?
I don't know, but he'll be back.
Would you go back and drive for him?
No. I'm trying to get to the end of that.
What do you see as his contributions to the sport?
Ray has done a lot for the sport. I think if you look at the way he came about, it's kind of like the great feel good NASCAR story. He got in his pickup truck, he drove down here, he started the deal. He was real ambitious. He got in at the right time. He got in with some good people, and everything came together. If you take it and you look at it in sections, he got down here and he got with the right people. All of a sudden he goes to Hendrick and there was Gordon. I guess there were together a little bit before they went to Hendrick. They got together and skyrocketed up. Then he decided to leave Hendrick and go do his own deal and bring Dodge back in. There, again, he got in with some pretty good people. That skyrocketed up. He came to me and asked me if I would drive and I think I fell on the floor. I couldn't answer. I really struggled leaving Ford at that point in time, but I ran out of options. When Cal Wells came in and everything that happened through that McDonald's era really put me in a bad deal. Then Ray bought my deal, worked hard, kept his nose to the grindstone and made some good decisions, but times were really good. Then George Gillett comes along and he sold out at probably the best time in his career. If anybody could have timed it more perfectly, he did, when you look back on it today.
He's done a lot. He's been very innovative. But now that NASCAR has really changed the playing field. Innovation isn't what racing is all about. It's part of showing up and doing a race. Now, you go through inspection today, versus what it was 5, 10, 15 years ago it paid a premium on what you could innovate and come up with new ideas. Shoot, there's nothing you can do today.
What is his lasting legacy to the sport?
I keep going back to the fact that he got the highest fine in NASCAR history at Charlotte for that spindle. That's what I'll always remember.
What about that Daytona 500 when you won the pole in Dodge's first season?
I don't think it really sank in for Ray. Watching him struggle that whole year, I think he realized car ownership, maybe what he wanted to do, at the end of the day. It sounds good having control over your own destiny, but the problem is you pick up so much other package when you agree to do that. That's what I found out when I started doing my own deal. Yea, I could control some things, but then there are some things that are out of control. Being a racer and trusting somebody to run the business, if you don't bring that person in to trust them, then you're screwed. That's what I ended up doing. I took the sponsors for granted, so to speak, worked with them and did what I had to do, but then behind your back somebody else is trying to take your deal away. That left a bitter taste in your mouth.
Ray fell into the deal perfectly when he got in and when he got out, because if he was still in it today trying to find that next sponsor, that next deal is so much harder, versus what it was two, three, five, 10 years ago.
If you had to pick the next career for Ray, what would it be?
I don't know. There will be something he'll be doing somewhere, somehow, some way. I just know him too well. He will be into something.