Sport: Auto Racing
Born: August 26, 1957
Raymond Evernham was born August 26, 1957 in Hazlet. Ray’s father owned a service station, so he and his brother Billy got to know his way around an automobile at a young age. Ray was consumed with auto racing as a boy and by age 14 he was working on cars and racing modifieds at the dirt tracks in Wall and Flemington.
In the early 1980s, Ray was hired as a chassis specialist to work on the prototype for the Camaro that was used in the 1984 IROC series, where he wored for Roger Penske and Jay Signore.
Ray was well-respected by drivers for his ability to put their suggestions to work. During the 1980s he learned his craft from NASCAR legends Banjo Matthews, Junior Johnson, Herb Nab, Smokey Yunick, Harry Hyde, Waddell Wilson, and Leonard Wood.
After working briefly for Alan Kulwicki in 1991, Ray was approached by Ford engineers Lee Morse and Preston Miller, who were looking for a crew chief for an up-and-coming driver named Jeff Gordon. Ray and Jeff had actually worked together for a time in 1990 and got along, so he agreed. Team owner Bill Davis wanted another crew chief, but Gordon and the Ford people pushed hard for Ray, who got the job.
The Gordon–Evernham team moved up to Winston Cup in 1993 as part of Hendrick Motorsports. They stayed together through 1998, winning 47 races and taking the championship in 1995, 1997 and 1998. Part of the team’s success was that Ray often looked outside of NASCAR for his team members, plucking bright minds from auto dealerships and other types of racing. One result was a series of pit innovations that shaved precious seconds off each stop. Crewmembers weight-trained like other athletes, and practiced their choreography.
One of Ray’s best hires was Terra Flynn. Flynn was the star of the Raritan High football team when Ray was a third-string running back. While Ray went on to a career in racing, Flynn became a Navy Seal. More than two decades later, they reconnected and Ray hired Terra to train one of his pit crews.
In 1999, Ray left Gordon’s team to form Evernham Motorsports. In 2001, his team spearheaded Dodge’s return to Sprint Cup competition. Ray fielded entries at numerous levels of NASCAR, working with drivers such as Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield. The team eventually merged with Petty Motorsports and in 2010, Ray sold his shares and got out of team ownership.
One of the drivers Ray developed, Erin Crocker (left), became his wife in 2009. Erin is Ray’s second wife. He had a son, Ray–J, from his first marriage. In 2015, Erin and Ray had a daughter, Cate. Today, Ray consults for Hendrick Motorsports and appears on a number of TV and radio shows. He also opened an auto racing museum and bought a dirt track.