Q: How can your background in IROC and NASCAR help grow SRX and make it successful?
EVERNHAM: I’ve made it no secret that (IROC founder) Jay Signore basically taught me everything I know about racing that got me going. I went off after IROC into my NASCAR career (in 1991) and that was the foundation for everything I’ve done. I learned from Jay Signore and Roger Penske. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Rick Hendrick and several great manufacturers along the way, from Chevrolet to Chrysler and Ford as well as (former Mercedes-Benz Chairman) Dr. Dieter Zetsche. I’ve had wonderful mentors who taught me a lot. I was able to be part of IROC to see the excitement. I learned the things that made it successful and I saw the things that eventually kept it from being able to run. A lot of that was timing and the interest from the motorsports fan changing.
We’ve added a couple of different twists to this. Certainly, it’s got some IROC DNA, but it’s not IROC. A lot of the successful things from IROC we can copy, but we are going to give the drivers more leeway. We’re also going to bring in some legendary crew chiefs for the drivers to work with and give them a small number of tools and a toolbox. The way we’re going to do some of the broadcast coverage with CBS is going to be interesting.
It’ll be a new format on shorter tracks with smaller speeds. We’re going to go to the heartland of racing, whether that’s Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, Eldora Speedway, Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, and then we’ll have a couple of right-left tracks for our road racers. We’ve certainly looked at Bowman Gray Stadium, too. We wish it was just a bit longer, but Bowman Gray is an event, right? That’s what we’ve got to get back to with racing: making everything a real event.
Q: What can fans expect when the green flag waves next year?
EVERNHAM: In a lot of races we’ve seen, the machine in some ways decides the winner more than the driver. (With SRX), there’s going to be no simulator, no aerodynamics, no specific inspections or anything like that. This is about driver-to-driver competition and that’s what fans are going to see.
Q: Switching gears from the future to the past, you’ve enjoyed a lot of special moments throughout your career. Where does winning three NASCAR Cup Series titles with Jeff Gordon rank?
EVERNHAM: You just don’t get opportunities like that often in life. I didn’t know how good it was while it was happening. What’s crazy is that now, I’m in my 60s and Jeff is almost 50. We laughed about that a little while back like, “Where has the time gone?” What made that so special was that we had such a great group of guys at Hendrick Motorsports. I don’t work there anymore, but I’m still close friends with Rick Hendrick. I could not be more appreciative of that stage of my career.
To cap it off for me with an induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame was incredible. I’ve gotten to do a lot of amazing things and I often tell my friends, “Hey, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but don’t feel sad for me — not for one minute.”
I’ve gotten to enjoy the experiences of a lifetime. Maybe the experiences of 10 lifetimes, when you stop and think about it.