Evernham says he turned down a chance to return as crew chief
Ray Evernham (L) with Jeff Gordon (R). The two had so much success together. When they split both of their careers went down the tubes
Ray Evernham recently turned down a job offer to return to the Sprint Cup Series - and not with Hendrick Motorsports. The former car owner and Hendrick crew chief who won three championships with Jeff Gordon has resisted the urge to return to the racetrack since selling his stake in Evernham Motorsports six years ago. But a recent call from a powerhouse NASCAR team - he wouldn't say which except that it wasn't Hendrick - had the man who was voted the greatest crew chief of all time in 2006 pondering a change of heart.
"I got hit with the right opportunity not that long ago, and I really had to stop and think about it," Evernham said Thursday.
"I had to make sure not to make decisions with ego and think about why I wound it down the first time, and the reality of what it would be because it's so easy to be 10 years later thinking about how great you are and how you can still do it. You can lull yourself back into thinking I could still do that."
Evernham's last race atop the pit box as Gordon's crew chief was at Dover International Speedway in September 1999, but he remained as hands-on as a team owner who spearheaded Dodge's return to NASCAR in 2001. He won championships with Gordon's #24 Chevy in '95, '97 and '98, setting a modern-era record with 13 victories in the last title campaign. "I probably could still do it, but I don't think I could have the results I had," said Evernham, 55, after a news conference at his museum to present a $280,000 check to the Autism Society of North Carolina.
"I look back at our stuff with Jeff Gordon. If I couldn't hold up to that 1998 standard, I'd be constantly unhappy and frustrated, so I don't want to do that again. I got that call, and I was flattered to get it, but I had to pass." He will be working at least 15 NASCAR events for ESPN, starting at Daytona International Speedway and focusing on more in-depth features. He also is working with team owner Rick Hendrick on developing a new TV show called "Americarna" that will explore the country's evolving car culture. Evernham also still is working as a consultant with Hendrick's automotive business though he is scaling back to focus on his other projects and remaining involved in NASCAR. More at the USA Today
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