• One of NASCAR’s most successful crew chiefs
• Won three NASCAR Cup Series titles with inductee Jeff Gordon
• Developed new ways to manage race teams
• Introduced specialization and choreography to pit stops
• Began trend of hiring former athletes as pit-crew members
• Won 23 poles, 13 Cup Series races as team owner from 2001-2007
• Co-founder of Superstar Racing Experience Series (SRX)
As crew chief for Bill Davis Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, then owner of Evernham Motorsports, the former New Jersey modified driver innovated ways to manage teams and became one of the sport’s most prolific winners. During the 1990s, he and 2018 inductee Jeff Gordon combined for 47 NASCAR Cup Series wins and three championships (1995, 1997, 1998). Among Evernham’s innovations were improvements to pit stop speed and efficiency. He employed former athletes as crew members with specialized roles and clockwork choreography. He’s credited with reducing four-tire stops from 20 seconds to 15. Evernham left Hendrick in 1999 to form his team, which won 23 poles and 13 Cup races from 2001-2007 before merging with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009. Later Evernham was an analyst for ESPN/ABC and NBC and hosted AmeriCARna on Velocity. In 2021, he and Tony Stewart launched the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) Series, which won immediate fan support. NASCAR Winston Cup Illustrated's 1999 “Person of the Year,” he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018.
By Godwin Kelly
There are few people who can boast of enjoying success from almost every perspective of auto racing. Put Ray Evernham on that narrow list.
He started in the sport as a modified driver in New Jersey, until an accident derailed his driving career.
“After knocking the wall down one night with my modified, the doctor said, ‘You probably need to go get a real job,’” Evernham said. He gave up the steering wheel for wrenches and went on to become Jay Signore’s right-hand man at the International Race of Champions (IROC) series.
From there he bounced into NASCAR and was eventually paired by car owner Rick Hendrick as crew chief for a promising young-gun driver Jeff Gordon (MSHFA Class of 2018).
Together, they took the NASCAR Cup Series by storm in their brightly colored No. 24 Chevrolet, beginning with Gordon’s Rookie of the Year title in 1993. The following season they scored their first victories, including the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which propelled Gordon and his “Rainbow Warriors” to fame.
“I was the Rainbow Worrier,” said Evernham, who was not only innovative but a stickler for detail.
The next year came the first of three NASCAR Cup Series championships (1995, 1997-98) and 47 victories, including a mind whopping 33 wins during the 1996-98 seasons.
“Like all great crew chiefs, they sacrifice a lot, and rarely get to enjoy the moment and enjoy that success, and certainly Ray was the epitome of that,” Gordon said.
“The Rainbow Warriors were a real team built on trust, honesty and respect,” Evernham said. “I would walk into a battle with those guys any time.”
A disciple of racing genius Smokey Yunick (Class of 2018), Evernham took pleasure with stretching the NASCAR rulebook and in one case partnered with the sanctioning body on one build, the infamous “T-Rex” Chevy, that Gordon took to Victory Lane in the 1997 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It ran one race, it dominated that race, and was banned by NASCAR,” Evernham said.
In 1999 Evernham got an offer he could not refuse. He was tasked with the job of bringing Dodge back into NASCAR and became car owner of a two-car factory team. Right out of the box his veteran driver Bill Elliott took pole position honors for the 2001 Daytona 500.
Over the next seven years, Evernham scored 13 wins as a car owner, including the 2002 Brickyard 400 with Elliott at the wheel. He sold his team in 2008 and opened a shop that rebuilt cars of all shapes and sizes.
He also dabbled as a network racing analyst. Still, his dream of taking Dodge to the championship was realized by Brad Keselowski driving the Team Penske Dodge in 2012.
Evernham came full circle in 2021 when he teamed with Tony Stewart (Class of 2019) to create the six-race SRX Series, borrowing heavily from his IROC playbook — prepping identical race cars for drivers of various racing disciplines.
Driver, mechanic, crew chief, car owner and now racing series owner, Evernham has covered all the bases with success at every turn.
Godwin Kelly was the Motorsports Editor at the Daytona Beach News-Journal for 40 years and authored five racing books. He now works as an associate producer and screenwriter for a production company and as a writer for IMSA.com.
Broadcast journalist Matt Yocum