By Elizabeth Liberatore / Photos courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
Gearhead is a term used to describe an individual who pursues mechanical or technological interests, as in automobiles or computers – most commonly, someone who has a ton of knowledge about cars. With more than four decades of experience in the automotive and racing industries, having worked with the biggest names in NASCAR, it’s safe to say that Ray Evernham is quite the gearhead.
“I’ve been working on cars ever since I can remember, but I really got serious about racing during high school and never turned back,” Evernham says.
He started what would become a long and successful career in the automotive industry racing modifieds – vehicles that have been altered or modified to gain a competitive advantage – in his stomping grounds of Hazlet, New Jersey. His fervor for maintaining and racing his own cars grew. Roger Penske, owner and operator of the transportation services company Penske Corporation, saw potential in the young racer.
“Roger Penske gave me the opportunity to work with him on the International Race of Champions (IROC) series. Through a succession of events, I finally landed in North Carolina working in NASCAR,” he recalls.
Evernham quickly became a household name. He won three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships as a crew chief for Jeff Gordon. In 2000, he partnered with Dodge and built Evernham Motorsports into one of the most successful teams in NASCAR. After serving as owner and chief crew for seven years, Evernham sold his team.
While he isn’t racing on ovals anymore, Evernham is still very active in the racing community. In addition to consulting for Hendrick Motorsports, he continues to grow his car collection and compete in a variety of vintage racing events across the U.S. He has even made several appearances at the Valley’s own Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction.
“Barrett-Jackson just takes everything to the next level. Not only is it an auction, but an automotive spectacle,” he explains. “It has really broken the stigma of just being a car auction to become known for putting on some of the best and biggest automotive events in the United States.”
Deemed The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auction, Barrett-Jackson takes place every January at WestWorld of Scottsdale, with three other auctions each year around the country set in Palm Beach, Florida; Mohegan Sun, Connecticut and Las Vegas, Nevada. The weeklong Valley event, which takes place Jan. 13-21 this year, is an epicenter for gearheads – like Evernham – from all around the world to gather, talk shop, see car-related exhibitions and see what’s up for auction on this year’s docket. For Evernham, it means auctioning off some pretty impressive wheels for charity.
“It’s hard to remember exactly how many, but I’ve been to a lot of Barrett-Jacksons and for several different reasons. I’m probably one of the few people that has attended the event as a buyer, seller and television personality through my time covering the event for Discovery Channel and Velocity,” he reminisces.
In 2015, Evernham and longtime friend and former colleague Jeff Gordon reunited to restore the last race car they worked on together, a 1999 No. 24 Pepsi Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The car sold for $500,000 to benefit the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation – an organization dedicated to accelerating childhood cancer research.
“I’m excited to work with Craig Jackson [Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company], Steve Davis [President of Barrett-Jackson] and their team again this year. It’s always a pleasure to work with them and go the extra mile on everything,” Evernham says.
Over 500,000 people will attend this year’s 47th annual show to see some of the world’s most sought-after, unique and valuable automobiles. From new cars to classics, Barrett-Jackson truly covers the entire spectrum of the automotive world with more than 1,500 auction vehicles. Evernham is excited to throw his 2017 Ford GT into the lineup of cars that’ll cross the block.
Ford GTs are elusive creatures. Beyond their performance and sleek design, Ford makes it nearly impossible to obtain one.
“Ford has a very tedious application process to purchase the car, and, on top of that, they only sell 250 of them each year.” Evernham continues, “These cars are a perfect display of the incredible advances being made in the automotive industry.”
Evernham Family Racing for a Reason, a foundation that gives individuals the ability to pursue their dreams that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to do so, will auction the supercar at Barrett-Jackson with proceeds benefiting the Autism Society of North Carolina’s IGNITE program, which was created by Evernham and inspired by his 26-year-old son, Ray J, who has Asperger’s syndrome.
More than half a million individuals with autism in the U.S. will reach adulthood this decade and lose support as they transition from high school to the next phase in their lives. Evernham created IGNITE – named to ignite a spark for others to create similar programs around the county – to close this gap, providing support for young adults to help them achieve their goals and dreams after they graduate high school.
“These young adults may be the next Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., or person who cures cancer but we will never know if they don’t get the help they so desperately need,” he explains. “This car donation very well could be what we have needed to [give them what they truly need].”
Celebrations and New Ventures
January is a busy month for Evernham. In addition to his involvment with Barrett-Jackson, he will attend the ninth annual NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony as an inductee into the Class of 2018. Evernham will be honored alongside Red Byron, Ron Hornaday Jr., and Ken Squier. The celebration will take place Jan. 19 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Evernham said he was in shock when he first received the exciting news.
“It is so humbling to be associated with the biggest and most influential names in NASCAR, many of which were my mentors and/or idols growing up,” he explains.
With 2018 in full swing, Evernham intends to travel with the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) and Historic Sportscar Racing (HSP) to dabble in road racing, which, as he explains, is a completely different animal than racing on ovals, an exciting new challenge for the veteran racer.
“Being in this industry really gives me meaning and fulfillment because it’s what I’m passionate about,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Meeting people and hearing their stories throughout the years has a been the best part of it all. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with some very influential people throughout my career, but I also really enjoy meeting people at events like Barrett-Jackson and hearing their stories.”
When he isn’t racing, under the hood of a car, or at events, Evernham can be found paddleboarding. In addition to getting a good exercise, he enjoys the serenity of nature out on the lake.
To learn more about Barrett-Jackson Auction Company or Ray Evernham’s 2017 Ford GT, visit www.barrett-jackson.com.