Ray Evernham hopes for Hall of Fame: ‘Your place in history is determined by other people’

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In the Hendrick Motorsports shop where he won three NASCAR titles with Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham hung a famous sign on the wall with a list of six boxes.

Nobody. Upstart. Contender. Winner. Champion. Dynasty.

Only the first five descriptors were checked – though you could make a case the sixth is why Evernham is on the ballot for the second consecutive year in Wednesday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame voting.

But the former crew chief and team owner said whether he built a dynasty worthy of stock-car immorality is for 57 voters (including an online fan poll) to decide.

“Your place in history really is determined by other people,” Evernham, also an NBCSN analyst, said in a Tuesday phone interview. “We’d get asked all the time about our checklist, ‘When are you going to put that dynasty checkmark up?’ That’s not really one for us to put up. That’s for the sportswriters and fans to decide. I don’t know that’s not our checkmark to make.

“I think the Hall of Fame is really like that. Are you Hall of Fame material? Everyone is going to say, ‘Hell yeah, I am.’  But you really don’t know until the other people vote for you.”

The results for Evernham and 19 other candidates won’t be known until 5 p.m. when the five inductees of the Class of 2017 will be revealed as joining the previous 35 members of the Hall of Fame.

After attending the announcement in Uptown Charlotte last year, Evernham will be monitoring the results from Indiana (he and his family will be attending the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500).

Though the wait isn’t agonizing, the potential honor will be on his mind.

“Some guys will tell you they don’t think about it, and it happens when it happens,” he said. “But you still think about it. I do think about it. You’re being considered for what I consider the highest honor you can be given in a sport. So it’s extremely important. If you’re fortunate to get elected to the Hall of Fame, it puts a period on a career. It’s the highlight of a career.

“So for me, three championships and a couple of Daytona 500 wins and three (Brickyard 400s wins) is great, but to be elected to the Hall of Fame would be the crowning jewel of that career.”

Of the 35 previous inductees, there have been only four full-time mechanics, which might lessen the odds for Evernham (who did receive a vote last year from this voter).

Voted the best crew chief of all time in a 2006 media poll, the New Jersey native watched last year as Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labtone, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner were voted into the stock-car shrine.

Evernham said it was with the mixed emotions of being honored to make the ballot (which was reduced from 25 to 20 nominees three years ago) but also the competitive disappointment of failing to achieve enshrinement.

“Certainly, I agreed with all the picks that went in there, but you can’t say oh my God, you’re so happy for everybody else that you’re not let down,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. And you should be. Who wouldn’t be?

“You’re amazed when you do get in, and I hope that as people are voting they consider the things I’ve done in the sport, and hopefully it’s worthy enough to get in this year, and if not, I’ll keep waiting and hopefully someday, I get a turn.”

The top three vote-getters who didn’t make the Hall of Fame last year were inaugural NASCAR champion Red Byron, 1973 champion and broadcaster Benny Parsons and Rick Hendrick, the owner whose teams have won a record 11 Cup championships – three with Evernham.

“I’m hoping and pretty confident that he gets in this year,” Evernham said of Hendrick. “I think a lot of people pass him up because he’s still active. But when you look at the numbers of what he’s done in the sport, how can he be denied? He’s made such a huge impact in NASCAR since the mid-80s.”

Evernham has been close to other recent inductees, too, such as Cook, a former Modified champion, and 2015 inductee Bill Elliott, who drove for Evernham from 2001-03.

“I know how much it meant to Jerry; this was the crown jewel for him,” Evernham said. “Bill Elliott is a pretty quiet guy who doesn’t say much, but I can tell you spending time with Bill, getting into that Hall of Fame was really important.

“When Bill and I won the (2002) Brickyard together, I could tell that was important to him because that was one of the things that he didn’t have that he really wanted. When he got elected to the Hall of Fame, it was like a giant sigh of relief or almost peace. The people who do get in, you’ve got a great feeling that your body of work has been recognized and appreciated. In the end, that’s all you get. When you do a lot of things in life, to be appreciated by the sport or the people involved in the sport that you’ve committed your life to, the greatest thing that can happen is that in the end they say that you did a good job. When you get elected to the Hall of Fame, that’s pretty much what they’re saying.”

Evernham, who helped groom a crew chief “tree” that includes Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte, Rodney Childers and Tony Gibson, said he has wondered if he will earn that career-defining validation since he stopped being able to enjoy it on a weekly basis.

“While you’re (racing), you have a measurement all the time in the sport,” he said. “You’re winning, you’re losing, you’re getting better, you’re doing things. But when you’re out of it a while, you’re wondering, ‘Did I make a difference? Was I any good? Where do I stack up in the competition?’ When you’re racing it’s easy to find that out every week. Where your place is in history comes a little bit later.

“I know what I’d like it to feel like, but until it happens, I think only those who have been inducted can tell you. To me it seems more like a quiet sigh of relief that, ‘Yes, I made a difference. Yes, I mattered.’ ”

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”