Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy TV Trails To Ray Evernham

Tuesday afternoon Ray Evernham made official what many already knew. He was going to partner with Rick Hendrick on a project involving high-end autos.

Here is the official information from the media release:

Ray Evernham Enterprises (REE) has been retained to consult for the Hendrick Companies, a management company formed in 2005 to oversee strategic initiatives for chairman Rick Hendrick.

Founded in 2008 by successful auto racing crew chief, team owner and broadcaster Ray Evernham, REE will consult on special projects related to Hendrick’s core businesses. In that role, REE’s initial focus will be development of the Hendrick Performance retail brand of high-performance parts, vehicles, products and related services.

While this release did not specifically indicate that Evernham was done with TV, these tweets came shortly after the announcement from various members of the ESPN Motorsports team.

Andy Hall (PR Rep): Congratulations to Ray Evernham - we'll miss him at ESPN.

Jamie Little: Congrats to the great Ray Evernham. New opportunity! Your ESPN family will miss you!

Allen Bestwick: My friend has some great things ahead. Thanks for bringing it! We'll keep that song going for ya...

Marty Smith: Huge congratulations to Ray on the new gig at Hendrick Performance, but dang we'll miss him on the television. That dude is great on TV!

Ryan McGee: Congrats to Ray on new consultant gig w/Hendrick!. Will he still take me to the Knoxville Nationals this summer?

The choice that Evernham made has already brought plenty of comments and email related to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his struggling fortunes in the Sprint Cup Series. While no public statement was made on that topic, the media release indicated that Evernham would be working in a non-racing role for a different division of the Hendrick organization.

Still, the words "initial focus" in the release leave the door open for Evernham to have flexibility in the overall organization. We all know that successful owners exhaust every resource when they are trying to get a major team back on track.

In the short term, it's the fans and TV viewers who are going to take a step back. Evernham settled into his role in the ESPN studios on Monday as a part of NASCAR Now quite well. He and Ricky Craven partnered up to present a formidable studio pairing that really clicked on the air.

Allen Bestwick hosted the programs and when a character like Randy LaJoie was along for the ride it made for a fast-paced and informative hour. Bestwick drew a lot of NASCAR knowledge from Evernham, who switched hats between analyst, owner and former crew chief in the blink of an eye.

ESPN also used Evernham in the field, but with less success. The infield duo of Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace often spoke over top of Evernham when he joined them on race telecasts. While Bestwick as host tried to keep order, the enthusiasm level of Daugherty and Wallace often eclipsed their level of knowledge. It was clear where Evernham should have been from the start and that was up in the TV booth.

Andy Petree has been ESPN's primary NASCAR analyst since the new TV contract in 2007. Petree's role was not going to change and ESPN needed only one former crew chief in the TV booth. Evernham was the odd man out. Although his relief appearances in that role worked out well, Evernham was not going to replace Petree in the ESPN package.

Since this situation has been playing out, there has been a senior management change at SPEED. Patti Wheeler, Humpy's daughter, is a veteran TV executive who lives in the same area as Evernham. She now runs SPEED's programming and production divisions. In the blink of an eye, she can offer him a role on Race Hub that involves only a short drive to the SPEED studios from his home or job.

Also right down the street is the Sirius NASCAR studios. Evernham has a regular weekly role on Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody, so it should be interesting to see if Sirius tries to get him more involved on the satellite radio side of the business.

On a personal note, Evernham has been supportive of this website and it has been very pleasant dealing with both Ray and his wife over the past several years. Even if he drops from sight for a while, keep an eye out for Evernham to resurface in either a media or racing role. You know what they say, it's in his blood.

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Newracefan said...

I'm sorry we won't continue to see Ray on the Monday round Table or hear his insight on Race Day but I'm glad he's back at Hendrick where he belongs. I'm not into all the Junior hype. Ray said himself last year that the cup box is too small, but maybe if they expand it.

Anonymous said...

Lord help us all with the ESPN infield studio in 2011. The only source of logic and reason is gone. Hopefully AB has more vacation time next season to escape the insanity of Brad and Rusty.

Best of luck to Ray Evernham in his new position.

RPM said...

Ray will be missed on ESPN. But I'll lay odds that he is involved with the 88 team when the flag drops at Daytona.

PammH said...

I gained alot of respect for Ray when I listened to him on Sirius yesterday. He said he couldn't be at ESPN & work for a team at the same time & be impartial...OMG, what a concept! He couldn't have thrown Rusty, Brad, Mikey or DW under the bus in a nicer way!!! I loved it...:)

Anonymous said...

nrf--it kind of makes me think; maybe Ray ought to be working for *NASCAR* to show them how to expand that box on a bigger level. He had ideas on how to make the cars better in Cup; it's a shame he couldn't use that knowledge for everyone.

But seriously, while I'm not a Junior fan per se, if Ray is in some way involved and that team does improve, I think it will improve things for *all* of us. We need his fanbase, like it or not. And we know Ray was a big admirer of his dad, I have to believe he'd want to help if he could, if only in some 'consulting' fashion.

Anonymous said...

According to Jayski's release, Ray said it would not be appropriate to work at Hendrick and appear on ESPN at the same time.

Gee, if big bad Brad and Rusty are allowed to own cars in the races ESPN's broadcasting, why can't Ray, as an advisor for Hendrick's non-racing operations, continue then?

If he's leaving the Worldwide Leader for that reason, then get rid of the other 2 as well. Their conflicts-of-interest are worse, imo.

Anonymous said...

Ray will be missed on the ESPN shows, but this frees him from Rusty and Brad's antics. I for one quit watching a lot of racing during 2010 for a lot of reasons (not the least of which were Rusty and Kenny) and listened to the races on the radio when they were on in my area.

As far as Ray's possible involvement with Dale Jr., I am for anything that improves that situation. I have not always been a Jr. fan, but it became painful to watch (listen) the last few years to all his on track performance issues.

I definitely agree with a previous poster that Nascar needs Jr.'s fan base to be involved. A lot of on-air personnel issues might be overlooked if Jr. becomes a regular at the top of the leader board. Did Steve Letare and Ray ever work together on Jeff Gordon's car? (Not being a Gordon fan, I don't know the exact history of his crew.)

I'm looking forward to the 2011 racing season and will again go into it with a positive outlook for the race coverage. If things do not improve rapidly from last year's coverage, I'll be leaving the TV screen sooner.

Marsha - Iowa

Vicky D said...

Good choice for Hendricks to add Ray to their teams. I wonder if Ray would like to move back to Jeff Gordon's crew chief role?? Hmmm that would be interesting. I always enjoyed Ray on NN and sure will miss him on that show. Good luck, Ray, will miss ya!

GinaV24 said...

There's my favorite picture of Ray and Jeff again! LOL

Good news for Ray being back at HMS, bad news for those of us who watched the ESPN roundtable program and had some "ray" of hope when he was in the booth that maybe he could keep the two loose cannons of cRusty and Brad from being too completely obnoxious - barely. The only way AB could contain the booth monkeys is to stick a sock in their mouths.

Somewhere along the way, Jr is going to have to help Jr. Maybe Teresa was right when she said he had to decide if he wanted to be a race car driver or a rock star.

Personally, the driver I want Ray to help the most is Gordon, but I'm biassed.

Ken-Michigan said...

A great run by Evernham on TV.

Very professional, informative, insider, easy to understand. Television loses alot of knowledge.

In a sport that should have the same TV Booth each and every week, Evernham would take the analyst chair in my opinion.

But his new endeavor with Hendrick IS NOT all about waving a magic wand on the 88 car..... just remember, that 24 car could also use some Evernham magic dust.

GM fans are happy to have ya back !

bevo said...

Couldn't agree more with the points on Evernham. Pretty much the only time I tune in to Speedway anymore was for his weekly segment. Ray won me over after his extremely messy personal situation, not from a moral point but how it impacted her career and the acceptance of female racers without the whispers that always accompany them. I have a feeling that if he ever writes an autobiography he will say pretty much the same thing.

Best of luck to him in the future.

The Mad Man said...

To me, this snubs any sort of possible conflict of interest he could possibly have between Hendrick and his BSPN job as an analyst. I think DW, Larry Mac, Jeff Hambone, Hermie & Eliott Sadler, Kenny Wallace, Brad Daugherty, Crusty, and Motormouth Mikey should all take the hint. This would stop a lot of the shilling and cheerleading that goes on week after week during the race season.

Anonymous said...

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I totally enjoyed Ray on tv! Loved his demeanor, tone of voice & input.

Will miss him (as I tuned in to shows if I knew he was on) & enjoyed Despain's special with him a couple yrs ago.

That loss of hope for NASCAR on tv this season just made a bigger shark jump.

That said, I hope he can help Jr LEARN to communicate issues with his car instead of just cussing & getting angry with it. I'm sure much of that frustration was worsened with the new COT car. I detest the focus/blame of NASCAR on Jr's shoulders though. But that's how BF does things.


p.s. Hope they find a way to get Ray on tv. Maybe SR or WT.

Anonymous said...

Ray Evernham brought a level of maturity,objectivity and professionalism to the booth that is almost unheard of today. I always appreciated how he would dissect a situation to present both sides before taking a position on the topic. Many "talking heads" try to be politically correct and waffle around sensitive issues. He will be sorely missed.

GinaV24 said...

Marsha, Ray hired LeTarte to sweep floors at HMS. He worked his way up the ranks and did indeed work with Ray on Gordon's cars. I have a youtube video of the "fight" between Gordon & Stewart and you can see a very young Steve stepping into the frame to protect "his" driver.

I wish that Jeff and Steve had been able to win a chase trophy together. It would have been nice symmetry for this long time Gordon fan.

Don said...

Gordon needs to grow that cheesy mustache back. He was a champion then.

And Junior needs to shave his head. It's the only thing he hasn't tried.

I understand the need for Jeff and Junior to have a good year, but Mark's the one that needs to be challenging for JJ's crown.

Anonymous said...

OK a precedent of sorts has been set. Let's get rid of others who have conflicts between their roles with a NASCAR team and television (Rusty, Brad, Phil Parsons) all team owners.

Anonymous said...

Best of luck to Ray, but this does not bode well for us nascar tv viewing fans. This will leave us a man short on the professional commentators (Alan, Randy, Ricky) versus the amateurs (being polite) (DW, MW, KW, BD, RW, etc). But hey, it is the economy. MC

Anonymous said...


Unlike you , I don't respect him or his current wife. I'm glad he's off tv.