CONCORD, N.C. – Tonight, Ray Evernham will be officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He was announced as a member of the class of 2018 back in May, but the honor remains just as surreal as the moment he found out he was joining the Hall.
“I have been for months struggling to find the right words to describe it, which I still haven't, and that will be a problem, I guess, Friday night if I don't get those words completely,” he laughed. “It blows me away.”
It was the final race of the 1992 NASCAR Cup Series season that Evernham was teamed up with a young driver named Jeff Gordon to serve as his crew chief.
Less than a decade later, the two had secured three championships.
“When he and Jeff Gordon got together, that was some of the magic in that period, in the early ['90s],” said Ken Squier, a fellow member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2018.
Together with Gordon, Evernham accumulated 47 wins as a crew chief – which led the NASCAR Cup Series in the 1990s – including double-digit victories in three consecutive seasons. The pair’s 13 wins in 1998 is a feat that has yet to be matched.
“I knew how special Jeff Gordon was,” Evernham said. “I knew that Hendrick Motorsports had the resources. I think from the day that I walked in there and realized what we had to work with, that it was going to be good.
“I mean, I don't think I ever imagined the roll we were going to get on in the '90s, but I certainly knew we had everything we needed to win races.”
Those wins included two Daytona 500s and two Brickyard 400s to go along with 30 pole positions, 116 top-five finishes and 140 top-10s.
And the wins on the track were only a part of Evernham’s influence on the sport, as he also helped reinvent what pit crews looked like, bringing elite athletes into the fold as the architect of the “Rainbow Warriors.”
His impact continued past his time as a crew chief with the No. 24 team – he went on to become a successful team owner, and his “crew chief tree” includes the likes of Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte, Kenny Francis and Keith Rodden.
All of those men learned under the tutelage of Evernham.
Now, Evernham will be cemented among the sport’s greatest icons.
“I can tell you that it really, truly just amazes me because I have never held myself in the same light as I hold a lot of those people,” he said. “When you're growing up, you're thinking, ‘Man, if I could only be as smart as that guy, if I could only ever be as good as that guy.’ Now going into the Hall of Fame with some of them, ahead of some of the others, it just totally blows me away.”