In 1975, a long-haired kid from New Jersey made his racing debut at Wall Stadium behind the wheel of a ’62 Nova Modern Stock. He didn’t set the world on fire, but the next year, ’76, he was named Wall’s Modern Stock Rookie of the Year. And in 1977, he won 11 races and the division’s point championship.
So began the storied career of Ray Evernham. Now we all know about Evernham’s rise through the racing ranks: from Modern Stock champion to Modified driver (and crasher) to Jay Signore’s IROC Series (hoping to impress Roger Penske enough to give the Jersey upstart a shot at Indy cars!) to his short-lived time with Alan Kulwicki that led to being Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, first with Bill Davis and then Rick Hendrick.
We also know about the ascendency of Gordon through Evernham and the Rainbow Warriors to 47 NASCAR Cup victories and three championships.
That led to Chrysler Corporation recruiting Evernham to spearhead their return to NASCAR competition with the Dodge brand. With Ray at the helm between 2000 and 2007, Evernham Motorsports posted 492 Cup entries, resulting in 13 wins, 66 top-five finishes, and 123 top-tens. However, for a number of reasons that venture had a messy ending.
Yet this opened new opportunities for Evernham, a return to the Hendrick fold as a “special consultant,” TV and satellite radio appearances, growing his collection of cars and race cars, and the syndicated Velocity TV program “AmeriCarna.” But what you might not know that Ray’s first NASCAR Cup effort was in 1990 and 1991 with Australian driver Dick Johnson and sponsor Redkote. That’s one for your next trivia party.
Welcome Ray Evernham to the EMPA Hall of Fame.