Ray Evernham won the Brickyard 400 three times, in two very different roles. He won the inaugural race in 1994 as well as the 1998 event as crew chief for driver Jeff Gordon, and won it again in 2002 with driver Bill Elliott as the owner of Evernham Motorsports. As part of the “Countdown to the 20th Running At The Brickyard,” Evernham -- who now serves as a NASCAR analyst for ESPN and host of “Americana” on Velocity -- recalled his years at Indianapolis in the following first-person blog.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has provided me with some special moments. I guess the best way to describe how I feel about Indy is to just say … I appreciate the place.
Two special moments: Winning the Brickyard 400 in 1994 and ’98 as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief.
But those two wins aren’t the only things Jeff and I share regarding Indy.
Once upon a time, both of us wanted to race in the Indianapolis 500. Time took us down a different path, but it eventually took us to Indy, just in a different type of car. And obviously that worked out just fine.
Indianapolis has always been a magical place for me. It was that way for me before we went there in 1994 for the first Brickyard. That year, I talked to a lot of people about what it would take to build a car perfect for Indy; we ended up with a car that was purpose-built for the 400. That day, Jeff drove just a great, great race. I can remember clearly how emotionally overwhelming it was for both us to win that day.
And then, after having won the Brickyard as a crew chief, to go there as a car owner with Bill Elliott and win again in 2002 was really something. It was great to see Bill win such a big race so late in his career, because there had been a number of years where Bill hadn’t had as much success. In 2001 we got him into the Dodges and it was great to get him back to winning races again. It reminded people of his greatness and special stature in our sport. Bill Elliott was awesome again and I was privileged to play a part.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway was just a perfect track for Bill Elliott. To succeed at Indy you need to be smooth and Bill Elliott was smoooooth. The place just suited his driving style.
When I look back on my life, what a great ride it has been -- especially at Indianapolis. I won there with two of the greatest drivers in the history of auto racing.
Indy … like I said, I appreciate the place.