home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


January 19, 2018

Bill Elliott

Ray Evernham

Jeff Gordon

Ben Kennedy

Charlotte, North Carolina

BEN KENNEDY: Today a youth movement is taking NASCAR by storm. And as they say, history repeats itself. A similar event occurred in the early '90s when this young crew chief teamed up with a kid out of California named Jeff Gordon. His innovative mind, well ahead of his time, propelled the No.24 team to three championships, all while revolutionizing the art of the pit stop as he choreographed his fellow Rainbow Warriors to dominance. He's a staple in the record books, and now he's enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
(Video shown.)
JEFF GORDON: You know, I think, 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, which also made it such a thrill and so exciting to get behind the wheel when his race car has every chance that I did.
There was one particular moment that stands out in my mind. It was 1995. We win the championship in Atlanta. It wasn't the best of days. We didn't perform very well. But we did win the championship. And to tell you what kind of person Ray Evernham was, I think he enjoyed that championship for maybe a split second before he started thinking about what was wrong with that race car, and he showed up at the shop the next morning, the day after we won that championship, to figure out what was wrong with that race car. And he found it.
But tonight, buddy, you get to enjoy all those moments, all that sacrifice, and celebrate this incredible success and career, and I couldn't be more proud to be here. It is Ray J and my honor on this 19th day of January, 2018, to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee ring and officially induct Ray Evernham into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
RAY EVERNHAM: God, my boys. Man, I don't know if I can get through this without crying. I know that's normally Jeff's gig, but tonight it's likely to be me, and I get it, man. It is just impossible to find the words to express what it feels like to stand up here. I've seen the toughness and most articulate men that I know stand on this stage and fight to hold back tears while they struggle to find the right words.
I think that's when you look back at your career you realize there's so many people that helped you, whether they taught you something or gave you a few bucks, a pat on the back or a vote of confidence. It's like all those people that cheer the marathon runners on. I don't remember everybody's names and their instances, but I want you to know that I'm standing here tonight because of you.
I want to congratulate the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class. It's an honor to be in with those guys.
I need to thank God for his grace and for his mercy. I want to thank the France family and NASCAR for having the vision to build a sport like this. I'm really proud to have known Bill Jr. and Ben Kennedy. They were good friends and advisors.
Tonight I ask you to join me in having our thoughts and prayers with the Gurney family. Dan Gurney was everything in motorsports that I aspired to be. Thank you to the NASCAR fans. You guys are the most loyal and passionate fans in any sport anywhere, and I also want to thank our service men and women of America because without their sacrifice, I wouldn't have the freedom to do what I do.
My awesome team at REE, especially my assistant Ann Eaton of 20‑plus years. I don't know how she put up with me that long. My long time partners AXALTA and Valvoline, Ingersoll Rand and 3M.
A young boy playing with toy cars in a stone driveway at the Jersey Shore could only dream of a moment like this, and with the support of family and friends those dreams can come true. Dad, miss you every day. You taught me to stand up for what I believe in. My mom, my sister, my brother gave me their time and their support.
My uncle Nick took me to the races all around New Jersey where I fell in love with the modifieds, and there's two special ladies here tonight, Mary and Erin Evernham that are caretakers of many of my family memories, married to one for 20 years, the other going on 10. Both have been great, supportive partners for the ups and downs. Both of them gave me amazing children, my son Ray J., my daughter Kate. Erin and Mary, you are incredible mothers who work unselfishly together so our children can have a great family life, and I can't thank you both enough for that.
We're going to 1975. I towed a 1962 Chevy Nova to Wall Stadium to Belmar, New Jersey, for my first race. It was on dirt tires. It was a paved track. I had a lot to learn. But I'm proud that many of my original Wall Stadium crew are here tonight. Then in the summer of 1978 with the help of the Bulma family, I got a chance to race modifieds and man I raced with the greats. Evans, Cook, Jarzombek, Bodine, and Gil Hearne. I should have picked an easier division, but man, I learned a lot with them guys.
I got a big break when Roger Penske moved the IROC Series to Tinton Falls, New Jersey. I got to work with the best drivers in the world and I met a lot of my great mentors. Jay Signore, you taught me so much. Jay is the one person that opens a door in your life that takes you to another level. It's incredible. Thank you. And Barb Signore? I loved her. Anybody that knows Barbara, you know how I learned to run a lean program.
And Roger Penske's culture, we learned that the unfair advantage was simply just working harder than your competition to find a way to win. Les Richter, the coach, we all know him as a big man, but we all looked up to him for a lot more than his size. Dave Marcis gave me my first job in Cup, paid me all‑you‑could‑eat spaghetti and a place to sleep.
George Fulmer, one of the best race car drivers in America, taught me how important driver and crew chief communication was. And Banjo Matthews, one of the great car builders, I spent hours picking his brain. He taught me so much.
While I was at IROC, I met Andy Petree and Mike Joy and they would have a huge influence on my career. I also got to work closely with the folks at Goodyear testing radial tires, and I had no idea how important that was going to be to what was going to happen.
So between racing IROC and racing modifieds, Andy Petree calls me up and says, hey, would you help this open‑wheel racer kid, so I did that, and I also built some cars for the Australian driver Dick Johnson with Norman (inaudible), and then it starts to get really interesting. After knocking the wall down one night with my modified, the doctor said you probably need to go get a real job. Norman said I was good enough to get a job in Cup. I didn't think so, but Mike Joy did so he called Alan Kulwicki and talked him into giving me a job. That didn't go real well, and I ended up unemployed, but the Ford people liked me, and they put me over at Bill Davis Racing with this kid that Andy introduced me to. I also got to work side by side with Mark Martin and learned a lot, had a lot of fun with Bill Davis and we won some races.
That got me my dream job, a place that became my family and my home, and always will be, Hendrick Motorsports. I'm so honored and so blessed to be a part of that team. I love everybody there, especially the engine shop. Randy Dorton and those engine guys, made a lot of good drivers and crew chiefs out there. It's a lot easier to pass those cars on the straightaway than it is in the corners, so thank you Hendrick Engines.
The Hendrick family became very special to me. I love and appreciate those that are here, and I miss the ones that we lost every day.
Rick Hendrick, where do I begin. You saw more in me than I saw in myself. You believed in me. I was a young, unorthodox crew chief. You were the first person to stay on my side with my son in the hospital, Ray J. You stood by my side when I decided to take two tires at Charlotte. You didn't really stand by my side, he kind of paced back and forth behind me, but he didn't ask me to change my mind. He stood by me when I wanted to start my own team, and if he wasn't terribly under the weather with the flu, as most of America is, he'd be standing by my side tonight. I don't know what I've done to deserve a friend like you, Rick, but thank you very much.
Rainbow Warriors, man they were the greatest ever. I loved leading that team. Many of those guys are here tonight, and it's so great to see them. And I'm going to tell you, we had to race the best. The best. Dale Sr. Rusty. Mark. Terry and Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett. If you were off even a little bit, those guys would beat you like a drum.
The Rainbow Warriors were a real team built on trust, honesty and respect. I would walk into a battle with those guys any time.
As an owner, I was thankful to have an opportunity to represent Dodge and the Dodge dealers. I got to work with my buddy Bill Elliott. We won some races. Bill is not only a driver, he helped me build that team. Bill is a trusted friend and a future partner, but I'll let him explain that one to you. And Kasey Kahne, buddy, thanks for the hardware, man, you filled that trophy case up for us, and I appreciate it.
Thank you to all my drivers and everybody that helped us build that team. I'm proud to say that I went to Victory Lane with all three American manufacturers, and I really want to say thank you to Chevrolet, to Ford and to Chrysler for all your support of NASCAR and motorsports.
Thank you for our great TV and radio partners. I've been fortunate to work with you all. Thank you to the motorsports media. I know you're saying what because I didn't treat you that nice that often, but thank you for everything that you did.
It's been a long ride. Driver, a crew chief, a owner and TV and radio, but it may never have happened if it wasn't for that kid that Andy Petree called me about: Jeff Gordon. First I need to thank his mom and dad, John and Carol Bickford, for not only doing a good job raising him, but they raised a bunch of us and have been great family.
And yeah, that Gordon, Gordon is still a kid to me, and now he's married to a wonderful, beautiful lady, has two great kids of his own. We've been friends since the first day that we met in September of 1990, and I knew he was special, the first time I saw him make a lap was unbelievable. He had an uncanny ability to tell you exactly what he needed in a race car, and he could keep more in reserve than any big game player in any sport ever. When it came time to go, he went. I called him the money man because I knew when the money was up, he was going to get it done.
And I promise you, as a crew chief, there's no better feeling than to know that no one else on the planet could drive that car any faster than the guy that drove it today.
Jeff gave me that feeling every time we raced. I thank you, and I love you, bud.
I stand here tonight before you very humble, very thankful, and very grateful to be a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Martin Luther King said that if a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets as Michael Angelo painted or as Beethoven composed music. He should sweep the street so well that the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, there goes a great sweet sweeper. And I read that quote a long time ago, and I realized the best way I could pay back everyone who believed in me was to work hard and be a good street sweeper. So thank you to all of you who believed in me, and thank you for honoring my work tonight. God bless you.

Q. How was Ray as an owner?
BILL ELLIOTT: I think the first time I saw him cry was as a car owner. We went through a lot of struggles in '01, and it was a tough undertaking. I'm sure from being from Rick Hendrick's organization to come in to running his own thing and being what you call the last link in the chain as you continue on to build a race team, it's a tough undertaking. But Ray stepped up to the plate, and he did a great job. He believed in me, came to me as he talked about Jeff here a little while ago, and I was going through a long dry spell there, and I thought I was smarter than the average bear having my own race team, but it just didn't work out. But Ray gave me an opportunity, and really I became a believer of what Ray could do and the things he could do and the way he could pull people together, and he'll always be a friend to me.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297