News & Media

From the Notebook: Evernham digs deep for Charlotte charity

October 27, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: Fans invited to Woods' shop; Martin has nothing to reveal

NASCAR icon Ray Evernham has first-hand experience of the fear, uncertainty and strength involved for the families and young patients battling chronic and life-threatening illnesses, but unlike the vast majority of those afflicted persons, Evernham this week took a huge step by making a personal, $1 million donation to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, N.C.

Evernham had stayed at a similar facility when his young son, Ray Jr., or "Ray J," battled leukemia as an infant. Evernham and his current wife, Erin Crocker Evernham, hosted a Halloween party for the Charlotte facility's clients on Tuesday, where they made the stunning presentation. In typical Evernham style, he attempted to put a low-key spin on the event.

"It doesn't really affect our lifestyle, but it helps the lifestyle of other people."


"I don't live a really extravagant lifestyle and I don't think it's any secret that I sold my company for a lot of money," Evernham said of the sale of the Dodge race team that began its life in 2000 as Evernham Motorsports and was sold in 2007 to George Gillett Jr.

"I've had a lot of good things happen to me. Even when I was working as a crew chief I didn't spend my money, I kind of put it away. Other than [collector] cars and stuff like that, I don't really do a lot. So we really just thought, 'What was the best thing we could do to really help the Ronald McDonald House -- to help people long term?'

"We do stuff like that. It doesn't really affect our lifestyle, but it helps the lifestyle of other people."

A Ronald McDonald House in New York City had a profound affect on Evernham, 19 years ago when he had just begun working at Hendrick Motorsports as Jeff Gordon's crew chief and his son, then 1, was diagnosed with cancer. Tuesday's party brought back some of those memories.

"It's always an emotional experience for me, to go to those places and to see the kids and their parents -- a lot of emotion there," Evernham said. "That little bit of normalcy that you give [at the McDonald House] ... I really can't explain the feeling. It's an emotional place in that special feeling you get from family, when nothing else matters -- but you really have to go visit.

"It doesn't matter if it's $100 million or 10 more Daytona 500 wins -- it's not about that at a place like that and everybody needs to stay in touch with that type of reality. In our world we can get caught up in a lot of things, from celebrity status or whatever, flying around in jets and having people moving us around. That's a really good way for me to stay in touch and I think that's why Jeff and Jimmie [Johnson] and Mr. [Rick] Hendrick and a lot of the other drivers do it, too -- it keeps you grounded.

"Our lives are great, but they're not great for everybody."

Evernham said he does have a foundation, Racing for a Reason, "but we haven't really started a lot of fundraising with it. Hopefully we can start doing some fundraisers so we can do more. But I knew I could give [the $1 million] even if we didn't raise a dime."

Evernham wanted to do something now, so he pulled the trigger. And he plans to do more.

"There's more projects that we want to do," Evernham said. "This is really all about Ray J. I spent several years working with the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, trying to raise money for them because of Ray J's situation. Our next efforts are going to be working with the North Carolina Autism Society because Ray J's an Asperger's person, too."

Evernham said he's trying to catch up on lost time, and he started it with a giant step that he credited to his son.

"Honestly, I worked my whole life and didn't get to spend a lot with his life," Evernham said. "So this is more about Ray J than it is anything. This was a personal donation -- a personal commitment -- and one way or another, if I have to sell off one of my cars every year to do it, which I don't think that's gonna happen. ... But it's written into my will, my estate planning that that's gonna be honored."

* From 2009: Evernham museum houses array of race cars

Wood Brothers invite fans to 'reunion'

The Wood Brothers Racing shops and museum in Stuart, Va. -- a short drive from Martinsville Speedway -- is always busy when the Sprint Cup Series visits its shortest track on the circuit. But Friday of this race weekend a particularly special event will occur at the Woods' complex.

Daytona 500-winning driver Trevor Bayne, crew chief Donnie Wingo, NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Glen Wood and the original Wood Brothers crew will meet fans for an autograph session at the shop and museum at 21 Performance Dr. in Stuart.

During the summer, Wood's sons Eddie and Len Wood have become museum curators, converting the team's former shop into a shrine honoring the Wood Brothers and its 61 years in NASCAR racing its No. 21 Fords, including original tools and equipment, a vast array of photos, and a homemade dynamometer built and used by Leonard Wood.

The free-admission museum will hold an open house from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. Bayne, Wingo and the four surviving members of the original Wood Brothers team -- Glen, Leonard, Delano and Ray Lee -- will be at the autograph session from 5 to 7 p.m.

"We were hanging pictures until one o'clock in the morning," Eddie Wood said early Thursday morning as he prepared to resume his museum work. Included in the photo array is the late Clay Wood, the fifth family member involved in the original operation.

* What's in a name? Hall of Famer Wood comes clean

Mark Martin still laughing about 2012

Mark Martin just laughed -- and it wasn't certain how much humor was contained in it -- when he was asked at Talladega if, with his 2012 plans still unannounced, if last weekend might be "your last Talladega race?"

"Don't start that last, last -- it could be last," Martin said. "Don't even go there -- please don't even go there. I don't know about that, and we do not need to touch on the Talladega part. I don't have anything [confirmed to drive], although I did answer a question last week which got a lot of talk going, and I should have probably not answered the question."

Martin said a fan, at a hospitality event, asked about his plans. Martin said not much has changed from his perspective.

"I said, 'Yes, [I would be driving] and I have a lot of confidence," Martin said. "The only full schedule that I have been considering is the Truck schedule, but Nationwide racing, Cup racing would be more of a limited schedule, like I did in 2007 and 2008.

"That is where my heart is at, and with the things that are starting to move, there is starting to be a little bit of movement going on. I am confident that I will be racing and that was the answer and that caused a little bit of things to get ruffled up.

"I don't have anything [signed] and it has been extremely quiet throughout the year and it is very late in the season. But there is still going to be something happening and sponsorship things that are going to happen, they are just going to happen later in the year. What I do is sponsorship-driven and I think [the media] knows that. It is sponsorship-driven, where I land and what I do."

Martin said he'd talk about it in his time frame, and that might still be months away.

"No news yet," Martin said. "But I was asked quite a while back, and people kind of smirked when I said it and probably thought I was being a smart aleck. They said, 'When do you want to have, when do you expect to have or whatever?' I said, 'November or December,' and I am still not going to miss that by much. I am still hoping it is November or December and not January."

* Stewart hopes to team Martin with Danica

Brad K says 'get a Roush'

Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski is the pleasant-surprise story of the 2011 Chase, as he's third in points coming into Martinsville. Five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson is 50 points out of first and, despite the fact that Johnson overcame a similar deficit to win his first championship, in 2006, Keselowski said that's not exactly realistic this season.

"It's realistic if you have a Roush [Fenway Racing] car -- they're really fast," Keselowski said of the top two drivers in the current standings, leader Carl Edwards and second-place Matt Kenseth. "In reality, with how finicky this [new] car is and how it is to get the setup right on it, probably not."

* Caraviello: Johnson's hopes hinge on Martinsville

Kenseth on battling Martinsville frustration

For both Edwards and Kenseth, tiny Martinsville Speedway has typically been a stumbling block in their seasons.

"Probably over the years, besides the challenge of getting around Martinsville at a competitive pace, probably the most challenging part for me is being calm and using my head and thinking through things and not doing something because you are mad -- more so than any other track, I am not sure why," Kenseth said. "For me, a lot of times I get credit from [the media] about not doing something stupid -- that is probably a place I have done more stupid stuff than any other track.

"I don't like getting run into and I don't like running into other people. It is bound to happen there and it is such a small little track. There is no room to move and there is not an outside groove where you have another choice to pass. It is one of the tracks that takes all the patience that I have, usually -- especially when your car isn't running good because I hate getting passed and you feel like you are getting passed all day and you are in the way and that is frustrating."

* Edwards, Kenseth pack 1-2 Chase punch

Martinsville latest EFI test site

The Sprint Cup Series will test electronic fuel injection at Martinsville Speedway on Monday, the day after the seventh race in the Chase, as research and development continues leading up to the full implementation of EFI in the Sprint Cup Series for the 2012 season.

As of Thursday, nine teams covering the full spectrum of the Cup garage planned to participate in the test, which is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET; including Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Furniture Row Racing, NEMCO Motorsports and two from Stewart-Haas Racing.

* NASCAR takes 'really big step' with fuel injection