CONCORD, N.C. – When Ray Evernham stepped off the stage last Friday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he said the best way to describe what he was going through was a “firehose of emotions.”
“Just about everything that you could possibly feel, whether that's happiness or sadness or pride or humbleness, it happens,” Evernham explained. “Because when you start racing like I did and like Jeff (Gordon) did, you never really expect to get there. You dream about it and you work hard to get there and the whole time you're doing it you never really think that you could ever make a mark in a sport that would get you at this level.”
Gordon said he couldn’t comprehend how Evernham was able to get through such a heartfelt speech without getting even more emotional, and he didn’t want to think about the possibility of giving his own speech were he to get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame after he becomes eligible for next year’s class.
What he did say is just how deserving his former crew chief is of the honor.
“I think he played a larger role in my career,” Gordon said when asked about the role he played in Evernham’s career. “You know, I'm so thankful to be a part of this. What he's meant to me with my driving career and as a friend because of all we've gone through ‑‑ I mean, we've seen one another go through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, on the track or off the track.”
Both men recalled “clicking” right away and knowing that they’d find success together. Three championships later, that gut feeling proved true.
“Honestly, when he and I separated and he started his team and then I stayed at Hendrick Motorsports, I'd never realized what an impact he made until then,” Gordon said. “I realized years later what he taught me as a leader.”
Now, Evernham is a NASCAR Hall of Famer. And the induction ceremony created a new lifelong memory.
“When I turned around people were on their feet and clapping, it was like very surreal,” the crew chief said. “It was just like being in a movie. I thought, ‘Man, oh, wow, now I know how Rocky felt.’
“I can tell you it's the greatest moment of my career.”