Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Evernham still wants a role in NASCAR

Ray Evernham called "The Morning Drive" on Sirius NASCAR Radio this morning after his name came up Monday while we were talking about the reports that Elliott Sadler will be replaced by AJ Allmendinger in the No. 19 Dodges next season at Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Evernham no longer has a major day-to-day role in the team he ran after leaving Hendrick Motorsports as Jeff Gordon's crew chief to help Dodge come back to big-time NASCAR competition. He sold most of his interest into the team to George Gillett and his family and has scaled back more and more over the past couple of years.

Two seasons ago, on the final weekend of the 2007 Cup season at Homestead, I talked to Evernham in the garage and he spoke about his plans to cut back. On that day, he said he reckoned that he was "burned out."

So in talking about what has happened at GEM in recent days, I mentioned that term "burned out" and Evernham wanted to make sure it was clear that he's not down on NASCAR or racing.

Evernham wants to be involved in racing. But as a team owner, he discovered that was a job he wasn't going to be able to do at a level he could feel good about.

"I guess you can say that some of my biggest strengths are also my weaknesses," he admitted. And that's exactly what I was talking about when I said what I said Monday.

Evernham doesn't have a "good enough" switch. You're talking about a guy whose work as Gordon's crew chief help redefined the way Cup teams compete. Evernham and his "Rainbow Warriors" changed the game, helping bring specialization and a level of attention to detail the sport had never seen before. By the time they were done, Evernham and Gordon had three championships together and Evernham had established himself as one of the sport's greatest all-time crew chiefs.

Evernham said Tuesday that "it will probably always haunt me" that he didn't win a championship as a team owner, but he's proud of what he helped build at GEM. He's not sure he agrees with everything that's being done there now, but he also said that it's no longer his call.

As for the situation with Sadler and Allmendinger, there wasn't much he could say. That's pretty much what has been going on with that story since it first surfaced over the weekend. Sadler signed a contract extension in May and my hunch is that as lots of people wearing suits and carrying briefcases are discussing all of that everybody involved has been told to remain quiet until everybody's as happy as they're going to be.

If I wanted to hype something Evernham said, I could use this quote: "When I left as a crew chief I said the only way I would come back in that job is to be Jeff Gordon's crew chief again." But that's not Evernham angling for Steve Letarte's job. It just means that Evernham isn't going to be a crew chief again just for the sake of having that title.

I've suspected all along that one day -- maybe three or four years down the road -- Evernham will find another driver who he thinks has what it takes to be special and he'll help that driver get to the sport's top level. He sort of said that's what he expects, too. "That doesn't mean that one day I won't go to Rick Hendrick or Jeff Gordon and say, 'Hey, I've got a guy that maybe we could do something with.'"

For right now, Evernham is working on getting East Lincoln Speedway -- the short track he recently bought -- ready for a new season. He even got denim overalls, which is apparently the official working uniform of that track, for the job.


Anonymous said...

Jeff Gordon needs Ray immediately!!
Letarte needs to go immediately!!

Anonymous said...

NASCAR should offer Ray a position on the competition side.
He is well spoken, knowledgable and would be an asset.
Maybe as competition director or Nationwide director.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me that both Ray Evernham and Chad Knauss both came from the Hendrick camp. Rick's ability to identify and cultivate talent and enable leadership is second to none in any sport. The 24 and 48 may have individual dynasties, but the legacy resides with HMS. This is the stuff of legend.

Anonymous said...

John....it's interesting that Chad Knaus worked on the team headed up by Ray. Seems like Chad did a lot of listening and took notes.

Anonymous said...

I guess the only way to get news on what's going on at GEM or otherwise in NASCAR now is to have Sirius radio or go to other websites.

Unknown said...

I'm confused. Or maybe you are. Ray called Sirius this morning and I talked to him on the show I co-host. As soon as the show was over, I wrote this blog about what he said. When ESPN.com wrote the story about Sadler's departure Saturday night, I called everybody I knew for a comment. Nobody has said anything and it's now Tuesday afternoon. I wrote for the paper Saturday night for Sunday what ESPN.com had because that's who had it first and I had to give them credit and not pretend I had my own sources when I didn't. There still has been no confirmation, denial or other comment from the team, from Sadler or from AJ Allmendinger. We've tried, but none of the principles has said anything. Evernham called us and we talked about various things I wrote about the conversation. I could write a lot of wild guesses and speculation -- and some people do that -- but that's now how I do things. I don't know what more you want us to do at the Observer or thatsracin.com.

okla21fan said...

When you sell 80% of your race team, that sends a message that you are ready to get out of the sport. In time, that same fire my come back and Evernham may return weekly to the track. But i would not hold my breath.

I really thought he looked like he enjoyed during his TeVee specials, and his appearances on ESPN.

Look for more of Ray on TeVee and radio and that would be a refreshing thing.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Poole- I guess there are 2 ways to interpret "there wasn't much he could say..." The way I took it on first read was that Ray E. made some comments on Sirius, but they were not repeated in your blog post. I take it the statement was meant to say that Ray E. had nothing meaningful at all to say about the Sadler-Allmendinger situation. It sure does appear that the teams controlled by relative outsiders to NASCAR (i.e., PE & GEM) are much more closed-mouth or more able to avoid leaks than what might be referred to as oldline teams. Thank you.

MrSmith said...

Oh, boy! Evernham as an advisor for HMS, and in particular for the #24. I'd like to see it, and there couldn't be a bigger hint than what he let out.

Anonymous said...

The reason Evernham sold 80% of the company was that he couldn't keep his pants zipped.

Anonymous said...

Richard said: It sure does appear that the teams controlled by relative outsiders to NASCAR (i.e., PE & GEM) are much more closed-mouth or more able to avoid leaks than what might be referred to as oldline teams.
I remember Jr being able to keep his move to HMS a secret. Most everyone mentioned every other team but HMS. Then there was his number. No one guessed it would be 88. Go back and check if you doubt what I say.

The point I make that it is not the management of the teams, but rather a sign of the times. There is a 24/7 news or Internet cycle and lots of things get out that could jeopardize the final contract. I even think that it is a compiment to the principals. If someone gives their word that they will keep information confidential, I see them as honorable. The team is more important than the public's need to know.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- I cannot disagree with you on the rightness or wrongness of "leaks," except that they seem to always happen - and in much bigger deals than any of the NASCAR teams involved. As I recall there were so-called sources saying Jr. would be using 88 before the announcement. It just seems curious that here we are about a month since the Cup banquet and there has been almost nothing reported about PE, GEM, or DEI-Ganassi except for this one story - and what all 3 teams have in common is control by parties outside the old-line NASCAR. I'm not saying its wrong, just curious how news has dried up since the end of the season. For instance, I have not seen anything recently in the so-called NASCAR press about the apparently very serious financial difficulties in the Ginn real estate business, even though it has ( or had ? ) a big development in the Boone area.

Anonymous said...

Richard, The media and blogs went all summer long trying to guess what number Jr would use.

As a matter of fact, David Poole wrote how Rick and Jr were able to lead everyone astray by making tradmark applications during the summer for #s 38,81,83,28, etc. they also had decals made of these different numbers.

David wrote how Jr's sister commented on how the media was driving her crazy and wished everyone would just wait til they made the announcement. If you'll remember, they went to Texas to make the announcement, not done in NC.

About 2 days before the announcement, someone from Yates leaked it to the media (ESPN, I think), and tried to steal the exictment from Jr. It's the media's job to try to find out, but I sure have NO respect for the Yates team.

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