CONCORD, N.C. – Charlotte Motor Speedway honored former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner and crew chief Ray Evernham with the Smokey Yunick Award Thursday afternoon.
The award, named in honor of the legendary car owner and mechanic, recognizes those whose efforts have had a major impact on the auto racing industry.
“Just to have your name mentioned in the same sentence as Smokey Yunick is very humbling,” Evernham said. “There were two guys in the garage area that I couldn’t hold a candle too mechanically. One was Smokey Yunick and the other was Leonard Wood. Just to be considered is certainly an honor. Smokey was a true genius and an innovator not only in the racing world but in the aircraft world and the regular automotive world. He was a true, true character of our sport.”
Evernham started as a competitor racing modifieds in the Northeast before getting involved behind the scenes as a mechanic. He started his NASCAR career working for 1992 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki at the end of the 1991 season before taking a job as crew chief for Jeff Gordon at Bill Davis Racing in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Evernham remained with Gordon when he moved to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Hendrick Motorsports beginning with the final race of the season in 1992. Together Gordon and Hendrick won 47 Sprint Cup Series races and three championships (1995, 1997 and 1998).
Following the 1999 season Evernham departed Hendrick Motorsports to form his own team, Evernham Motorsports. The team served as the lead team for the returning Dodge brand in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team scored 13 victories between 2000 and 2007 with drivers Bill Elliott, Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne at the wheel for the team.
Evernham eventually sold the team, first splitting ownership with George Gillett Jr. before selling all of his remaining shares as part of a buyout by Richard Petty and several investors in 2010.
Previous winners of the Smokey Yunick Award include Leonard and Glen Wood, Cotton Owens, Junior Johnson, Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick, among others.