Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ray Evernham says he will cut back and change his course

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A few minutes before the final practice session of the 2007 Nextel Cup season begins, Ray Evernham is standing behind Elliott Sadler’s hauler, leaning on a stack of tires.

Over the long, rich history of stock-car racing, a lot of profound and important things have been said by people leaning on a stack of tires. It’s not quite like a confessional booth or a psychiatrist’s couch, but it seems to have a similar affect.

Very early this year, I found Evernham late one afternoon in the garage at Las Vegas and asked him about a man named George Gillett. I’d heard that Gillett was interested in buying a piece of Evernham’s team and wanted to see whether that was true or not.

Some car owners (many of them, truth be told) would have acted like I was speaking Chinese and pretended they knew not of what I was speaking. Publicity might kill a deal, they’d worry.

So they’d either dodge the question or outright lie about it.

Not Evernham. He told me that he and Gillett were talking, that Gillett would be coming to the track that weekend and that he hoped he and Gillett would be able to make a deal.

Several months later, they made that deal. The team was renamed Gillett Evernham Motorsports, and Evernham started telling everybody that meant he was going to have less and less to do with running the team he bought from Bill Elliott. He would, instead, go back to spending more time working on the team’s cars and trying to make them go faster than they have been during what has been a difficult season.

He won three championships by figuring out things like that back when he worked with Jeff Gordon at HendrickMotorsports, and he missed that part of it. What he has found, however, is that not even that has been enough to fill up the hole he has been feeling.

“I am burned out, I guess,” Evernham said. Everybody’s burned out at the end of a long NASCAR season, even a car owner with three teams who hasn’t been able to get one to victory lane after Kasey Kahne won six times last year.

But this is different. This is Ray Evernham, the man who lived and breathed racing when he ran Gordon’s No. 24 team. The man who left that job and started his own team, his own major league sports franchise, and helped Dodge come back into the sport. The man to whom Chad Knaus, who has emerged as the sport’s most highly regarded crew chief while working with Jimmie Johnson, is most often compared.

“I am going to cut way back next year,” he said. How far back? “I don’t know if I will be at more than 10 races next year.”

Evernham glances at his watch. He’s waiting for a telephone call. His father is sick and in the hospital and his mother is upset. Evernham has decided to fly home tonight to be with his parents.

He’s got people to run the teams. Gillett has people who’ll run the business. Evernham will be around, but his plan is to cede control in away that never seemed possible for a man who has always been considered the prototype of a “control freak.”

“I will probably tell them what I think is wrong,” Evernham said.“But I don’t plan on caring whether they listen or not.”

Evernham said he wants to spend more time with his son, Ray Jr. This week, he went to Mexico and watched the Baja 1000. He flew back to South Florida with Robby Gordon and said they talked about the race non-stop for hours.

“Robby’s truck in the Trophy Truck class is an engineering marvel,” Evernham said. “Over there, if I can invent a shock absorber that’s better, there isn’t a rule that says I can’t. Maybe I’ll go work on Robby’s truck next year.”

The point is that right now, Evernham doesn’t know what he wants to do. He doesn’t know whether he’ll miss what he’s doing right now so badly that he’ll come right back.

But he has decided it’s important for to him to find out.


Monkeesfan said...

I suspect Evernham will eventually sell what's left of his share in the team to Gillet and quit altogether. It seems the sport has made it impossible for the owner-participant (which is pretty much what Evernham was) to accomplish anything anymore.

That's what angers so many who love the sport - it's handing everything over to the money-guys and draining out the racers, and it needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

Ray should have spent less time dipping his pen in company ink. His dropping the ball has been the downfall of Evernham Motorsports.

Anonymous said...

David, after reading this entry, I'm reminded of the ending of the movie "Blue Chips" where Nick Nolte quits his job as a highly successful NCAA basketball coach as the result of a gambling scandal, and walking through town at night comes across a group of teenagers playing, and begins coaching them. In the epilogue we find out he returned to coaching at the high school level, ultimately doing what he loves away from the limelight and the pressure.

Evernham is a highly motivated man of incredible determination and talent who sealed his place in NASCAR's history books by sheer talent and force of will. Many thought that leaving Hendrick to start his own team was a mistake, but from his vantage point at that time, doing so was the "next world to conquer." And though the transition was not without its challenges, he clearly had success over the years.

Then as we all know, over the past few years the wheels seemed to be falling off. We can speculate all we want as to the cause - it's fairly obvious that running the business side of a race team is equally as daunting a task as running the racing operations - perhaps it would have been better for him long term to have a business partner from the get-go, some of us are operators, some of us are administrators, it takes both to make a successful organization.

On the whole "personal" level, while I respect anyone's right to enter a relationship with anyone they choose, it did strike me as odd that Evernham would choose to act as he did, given the incredible scrutiny that "NASCAR people" at his level are constantly under, both in the press as well as on TV - I remember watching a race (can't remember which one) where he was in victory lane, and the "relationship" was displayed there for all to see. There really is no such thing as "a private matter" when you're a celebrity, and it's fairly clear that the situation had a negative impact on both parties on a professional level - the Mayfield incident is a case in point.

Bottom line, it's easy to see that it likely is no longer "fun" for Ray Evernham, and he's looking for something that will restore some measure of happiness to his working hours. Whether you're a fan of his or not, he, like all of us, deserves to take a degree of pleasure from his work. I wish him all the best, whatever he winds up doing.

Anonymous said...

If you abandon your wife to commit adultery with an employee you've no one to blame but yourself when your life and your company both fall apart.

Jimmy O'Neill said...

As one who respects Ray's talent as a crew chief and an innovator, I can certainly understand his desire to cut back. During his tenure as a car owner, NASCAR had devolved into little more than a medium to deliver advertising to the masses with just enough racing to keep most people from drifting away.

As a long-time racing fan, I've drifted a lot this year, and as things now stand, I suppose I'll drift even further next year.

Anonymous said...

Ray has no one to blame but himself for his current feeling of ennui. He's worried about his parents and probably feeling guilty for destroying his own family by leaving his wife of 19 years so he could have sex with a young employee.

The reason he was in Mexico for the Baja 1000, is that he bought Erin a ride on one of the Baja Challenge teams.

He lost his focus and his company to another person because he couldn't keep his pants zipped. Last year he said that he was not distracted and neglectful to the team. This year he admitted exactly that when he also admitted that he was having sex with the young employee.

His bad decisions have cost him plenty. His marriage, his company and his self respect. No wonder he is burned out and wants to run and hide. I hope he sees the high price a little bit of young flesh cost him. But as long as he still has money, a private jet and access to buy his young girl race cars, then she won't leave him.

Good luck Ray.

Anonymous said...

David, that's just flat-out bad reporting not to mention that Evernham was at the Baja 1000 because Erin Crocker was racing, likely in an entry and trip paid for by Ray.

You say he doesn't dodge questions. He lied again and again last year about his relationship, ultimately casting Jeremy Mayfield in a bad light because Evernham did not want to admit that his relationship was causing problems at his workplace. he did not admit he had a relationship with Crocker until this year when her career was in tatters and he was trying to salvage it by sending her to another team.

As you tell by the comments here, no one - except you - is crying a river for Ray Evernham. Go talk to Monte Dutton, he once wrote that everything that Ray Evernham says to the media is only said if it benefits Ray Evernham. He's right.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. Kasey Kahne said some things Friday that were also interesting, basically that if things stayed the same at GEM, the results weren't going to be any better in 2008. Kahne said they need to start over in every area and change personnel around. Pretty tough coming from the star driver.

I wonder if there's some conflict going on over there, some sort of quiet power struggle between Evernham who is used to running the show, and Gillett - and Gillett obviously has more muscle (and ownership majority) at this point. Perhaps that is difficult for Evernham to accept, that he doesn't have final say anymore.

In terms of hands-on engineering with COT, time and technology may have passed Evernham by as the nuts-and-bolts genius in the garage and that may factor into his decision to scale back.

I think it says a lot that Evernham has lost so many people -from management to engineers to pit crew this year, people who have signed deals with other teams next season. He talked about that on Trackside Friday and was upset because he thinks NASCAR should establish rules so that big teams can't "raid" smaller teams without compensating the smaller team.

All teams have turnover, but for a team that was supposed to be one of the elite teams of the sport, GEM has a lot. Perhaps it's not a big team-small team problem - perhaps Evernham hasn't provided a work environment where they want to stay.

Anonymous said...

i think it's funny/odd that so many want to trash ray for his deal with erin. that they want to put the blame on that as the reason for everything ray is dealing with now. granted that sure didn't help.

as for his being passed by by the new technology thats certainly not the case. i believe you'll see more and more people like him that get more and more fed up with the cot and the rules that come with it.

ray is an innovator as are so many other crew/car chiefs. their success came from innovation. now nascar in their stupidity has taken that away and said now we run these iroc cars for closer competition cause it'll be better racing. how's that working?

nascar has set about destroying all that made them great. no more smokey yunicks or ray evernhams. remember smokey's chevelle? remember ray being told to not bring a certain car to the track again even tho it fit the rules? hell, a robot could be programmed to crew chief a cot. i can understand some of what ray and others must be feeling. they've had thier biggest asset taken away,the way they innovate.

to the old school racers this just ain't racin! ray is a racer! erin had a lot less to do with ray's situation than has nascar's lack of ability to see things ahead. look at how their greed has affected some teams sponsorships.

racin ain't the deal anymore,nascar greed is and they are stinkin up their own show!!

Anonymous said...

It's sad that Ray can sign Kasey and Elliot to contracts and then abandon them. Kasey might have been able to opt out of his contract, but he chose to stick with Ray. Ray owes all his empolyees the same respect he expects from them.

Anonymous said...

Ray Evernham thought he could be Rick Hendrick. He has to realize that he can't compare to Rick, either in his ability to run a company OR his ability to deal honestly, fairly, and respectfully with people. I'm not going to bash Erin for what's happened to Gillett/Evernham, because I don't think that's the issue--but it shows how Ray thought he could have his cake and eat it too. And Erin, like Casey Atwood, Elliott Sadler, and even Kasey Kahne, has had her career take a downturn as a result. I don't feel sorry for Ray Evernham, who is finally having to deal with his ego; I feel sorry for all the people whose careers he has screwed up while he indulged his fantasies.

Anonymous said...

Ray Evernham thought he could be Rick Hendrick. He has to realize that he can't compare to Rick, either in his ability to run a company OR his ability to deal honestly, fairly, and respectfully with people. I'm not going to bash Erin for what's happened to Gillett/Evernham, because I don't think that's the issue--but it shows how Ray thought he could have his cake and eat it too. And Erin, like Casey Atwood, Elliott Sadler, and even Kasey Kahne, has had her career take a downturn as a result. I don't feel sorry for Ray Evernham, who is finally having to deal with his ego; I feel sorry for all the people whose careers he has screwed up while he indulged his fantasies.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that when Evernham first started a team for Erin Crocker he said that "she (was) like a daughter to him." Obviously he lived out some sick fantasy and ran his wife off. That is sad on the personal level. Even more sad this year was the fact that his teams were basically garbage, and don't figure to be any better next season. And to top it off....apparently Patrick Carpentier is supposed to right the ship?!? That is too funny.

I do agree with a lot of people though...NASCAR needs some zest. Hopefully a Dale Jr. title next year will provide what the sport really needs...

Monkeesfan said...

Dale Jr. won't add any zest - the only thing that will add zest is a strong increase in number of winning teams and a massive increae in the ferocity of the racing.

Anonymous said...

I consider Ray a friend and a decent person. I am not making excuses for him but if you think every other driver/car owner and crew chief in the NASCAR garage is a saint...Boy I could tell some stories but I still work in the industry.
Ray will right the ship because he will use his talents to make the decisions needed to put the right pieces of the puzzle in place to get things better.
People what you have to understand is he had something else on his mind during the interview, his sick father.
If everyone (fans) had their personal lives out on the open like many in NASCAR have, then you would have a different opinion, I am sure. Again, I am not make excuses for Ray, but remember one thing, it is easy to cast stones when you don't have to look in the mirror....

Anonymous said...

A lot of us have ill or dying parents and sick children , but we don't see that as justification to drop a spouse of 19 years who stood by us in the tough times, to run off with a young piece who wouldn't give you the time of day if you weren't rich and well placed.

Anonymous said...

You people all need to get a grip and mind your own buisness about Ray and his relationship with Erin Crocker. Who cares? Its his personal life, and I doubt very much who he chooses to be in a relationship with has anything to do with GEMs bad year. Its more the COT than anything, combined with a pretty major ownership change in mid season, sponsorship issues and driver changes. Its been a long season for everone, with the exception of Hendrick Motorsports (who I suspect wish the season would continue forever). On top of things, it sounds like Ray has a lot on his plate with his parents - all in all, a few months off away from the track may be just what the doctor ordered. I suspect that by Daytona, Ray will be back to his old self and GEM will be on the rise again.

Anonymous said...

Erin Crocker is not the point, though she and Evernham need to realize her NASCAR career is over and that is of their own doing, something they seem to refuse to accept.

The point is Evernham does not have the mindset or personality to run a multicar race team. As said above, he thought he could be Rick Hendrick and he can't.

If GEM does improve next year, it will be because of the resources and experience of the Gillett family (owner and sons). If I were Gillett, I'd give Evernham a couple of weeks to regroup then find out exactly what he wants to do. I was under the impression that Gillett thought Evernham would be taking control of the COT and the racing side of the teams. From here, it doesn't sound like Evernham is happy with that, citing his burnout.

I read another comment from Evernham over the weekend where he says he thinks he'll act more as a consultant to GEM. A consultant? Get real.

If you're going to be a consultant, then give up your CEO title and salary and let Gillett use it to hire some real people with real titles who can figure out the COT and help this team. If Evernham continues to waffle, don't be surprised if Gillett buys him out completely next year.

And yes, Kahne should have opted out this year (he could have with the ownership change), but he didn't out of loyalty to Evernham. Kahne could have easily gotten the sponsorship for RCR or Gibbs to have a fourth car in 2008. Too bad Evernham doesn't seem to be reciprocating Kahne's loyalty.

Anonymous said...

TDS, if Ray E. had left his wife for some woman up in Lake Norman, no one would know or care, just like I don't care what the other owners, drivers,crew chiefs are doing with their lives.

What makes this different is Ray started dating his employee, who happened to be the only woman in NASCAR who has (had) a chance to be a regular in Busch and possibly Cup. Unless Danica comes over, that won't happen again for years.

Ray also started attending ALL of Erin's practices and races - neglecting his other teams races, even as Mayfield was threatening to fall out of the top 35. Mayfield finally called him on it in public and that's where it became a professional matter, not a personal one. Ray just handled the entire situation very badly, and he's suffering the results. Last season he was talking about taking on a minority partner, but he ended up having to sell most of his company instead. That's probably why he wants to take a break more than anything else.

Monkeesfan said...

One other point about Erin Crocker - she sucks as a race driver, yet Evernham has invested far too much effort and wasted too much time on her.

Anonymous said...

Ray is a human being, none of us are even close to perfect. But his personal life is not the point. Someone said Ray is an innovator and he is. That is the real problem NASCAR has killed all innovation, all freedom to interperate. In essance we are watching F1 with stock (sorta) looking cars. I don't blame Ray one bit but I do blame NASCAR for killing the golden goose.

Monkeesfan said...

I hear this innovation argument and it's crap. Can anyone name a single "innovation" that actually improved the racing as opposed to just making it cost more? Not allowing teams any room to interpret is not a problem for racing, because innovation costs money and adds nothing to the sport. People say "the cars are the same," except they're not, and can never be. Differences will always exist. Eliminating advantages so you have to otufight the field instead of outrun it is what sanctioning bodies are supposed to do.

"Ray's personal life is not the point." It is when he's wasting money on an untalented nitwit like Erin Crocker because she's a woman and she's having an affair with him.

Anonymous said...

Ray Evernham is not Rick Hendrick, and the fact that Ray is quick to point out employee failings before personal responsablities only highlights this issue ( See the 07 Charger Data ). Ray is at best a crew chief or team mechanic. Ray since creating EMS has only had luke warm seasons or just plain disastrious ones.
The fact the Mayfield ( who quilified for the chase twice ) and Riggs ( Who left MB2 for EMS ) walked out for lower tier teams only proves it. If not for the talent and flat out markabilty of Kahne EMS / GEM would be in the same boat as Wood Bros and BAM Racing.
Evernham has repeated talked about the costs of racing on "Sirius Speedway". Yet, contiues to invest money in buying rides or marketing Crocker. Crocker, who herself stated that she was "no Kasey Kahne", had her sponsor walk out for Bobby Labonte.
The Crocker scandle, has hurt Ray's standings with Sponsors. He needed someone on the inside like Gillet to keep money coming through the door. With Chrysler in the hands of an investment firm. I wonder how long the 9 and 19 would have Dodge for a primary sponsor.
The age of Evernham has ended. I fnot just been baried by the Downing of Knaus.
I can say as a diehard Kahne fan the he should have walked out when GEM was formed. For Kahne to get a Cup title he needs get a ride with an own that has his eye on the prize. Not an employee's rear.

Anonymous said...


Monkeesfan said...

That Ray Evernham was ultimately a bust as a car owner I think we all agree on. But to say "he's no Rick Hendrick" is to flatter Hendrick with a skill at car ownership that belies that he has made many mistakes over the years (trying to make three teams work when he could hardly get two to work in the 1987-94 period; the Days Of Thunder fiasco; the revolving door of drivers in the #25 since Ken Schrader left; the hiring of Schrader, who couldn't race, and Ricky Rudd, who was a cancer through the entire organization) but because he can outspend anyone in the sport allows him to make up for those mistakes; he also got a lot of help when NASCAR went to limited testing, in effect changing the rules to benefit his multicar philosophy.

Evernham was an owner-participant, and it is this type of owner the sport should have, not the money guys.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting how quickly Ray was destroyed and emasculated by chasing after a young woman who was clever enough to figure out a way to keep herself supplied with race cars. Now Ray sounds ready to quit the business as he no longer is in charge of his company and can't spend company funds on his sponsorless young honey.

Anonymous said...

I read on another message board Erin Crocker said in an interview that she was going to run the Talledega Cup race -the CUP race in the Chase - this past October until NASCAR blocked her. She was annoyed NASCAR blocked her from a test which would have let her qualify for the race.

But I say good for NASCAR. They realize that the Erin/Ray saga needs to come to an end (on the track) and since Ray seems incapable of putting an end to it, NASCAR will.

I can't believe he was even considering putting her in the Cup race (Erin said it was to get her some media attention for sponsorships next year). To me that shows how far his attention has strayed from Kahne/Sadler and now Carpentier. Why did she even have Cup cars being prepared for her during this time of the season? To get her some media attention is not a good reason to put her in a Chase race.

If Erin Crocker is Ray's focus, then I think his team should bid him good riddance. You can't have a midlife crisis on the job when you are responsible for hundreds of employees. Maybe he can fund a startup team for her if he sells his stake in Evernham/Gillette.

Anonymous said...

Poor Ray, What a dumb ass........

Anonymous said...

Ray Evernham is distracted and his cars can't get out of their own way. Kahne is blowing his career there, and he should have started making noise about wanting to get out in the middle of this season. These people who complain that Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush are dominating have nothing to blame but their work ethic and their business acumen.

Anonymous said...


Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #29 has made the fundamental mistake of flattering Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush as smarter and harder-working than they are compared to the other teams in the sport. Ray Evernham made huge mistakes and mismanaged his team, no one disputes that, but to say he's to blame because of his work ethic and business acumen compared to those of Hendrick and Roush is not just laughable, it's insulting. Hendrick and Roush can spend their way out of their mistakes; most other teams can't.

Jackie Stroud-Painter said...

Ray is the best thing that ever came along for Kasey. Ray and his wife split before Erin came along. I would love to get my chance with Ray and not to drive. Erin can't drive and she isn't worth bragging about. Ray is great and he is the best support for his team. I wish the Gillets would go away and leave Ray to do his job. The farther away that Erin is the happier that I am. I adore Kasey and Ray and only want to see them with the best.