Last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Ray Evernham sat down with Speedway Motorsports Inc. mogul Bruton Smith, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway Marcus Smith and Don Hawk, SMI vice president of business affairs, to introduce the newest development in racing – U.S. Legend Cars International.
The new series will feature a newly-designed dirt Legend car, developed by Evernham within the last few months, and will run at the East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley, N.C. before branching out to other dirt tracks across the nation and eventually overseas.
“Basically, we’re developing an entry-level open-wheel dirt-style racecar,” Evernham said. “We want to give drivers a car that is safe, powerful and easy to handle. We also want to give teams the ability for some customization, but still control the costs for excessive development and maintain a level playing field among competitors.”
The new car is a center-drive car much like a Sprint Car and will run a similar body style to the Legends car currently run at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and over 200 other tracks across the globe.
“I just think it’s fabulous that all of a sudden we’re in 16 other countries with our product,” said Bruton Smith. “Gee whiz, I never thought we’d be international but all of a sudden we are.”
The hope amongst the group is this new series will do to local dirt track racing what the Legend car has done to young driver development on asphalt – make racing fun, affordable and accessible.
“It’s something that should allow people to have fun,” Evernham said. “It will give someone an opportunity to learn to understand what it’s like to drive a center-drive car if they were to go Sprint Car racing or something like that. It’s a car that somebody can have a lot of fun with. It’s a good, safe, low cost, low maintenance way to go racing. I can only hope and pray it’s as successful as what Bruton and Marcus and everybody have started with the Legends car.”
Working on the design and concept of this new car, Evernham has shifted his focus away from the crew chief and ownership roles that have defined his career in NASCAR and is now focused on something much more promising – the future of the sport.
“One of the neatest things about this is that this is really Ray Evernham’s baby,” said Marcus Smith. “He’s developed this car from the ground up. We’re really proud to be associated with Ray and to be able to work with him on this project.”
“From a parent’s perspective, you’ve got a chance to put a child in a car that’s going to be safe and competitive in a series of cars where it shouldn’t be about whoever spends the most money wins. It should be competitive, fun and also affordable,” he added.
In years past, go-karting or racing late models or any other local racing series has been a serious financial undertaking and required a great deal of mechanical know-how if you wanted to be successful and make a name for yourself.
Yet, for roughly $13,000, families are able to purchase a Legend car and go racing with minimal overhead. Thanks to the Legend car program, kids, families and adults are able to access an affordable series and develop their skills as they go along with truly minimal costs. With this newly designed car, Evernham hopes the same will be true.
“We’re working really hard on making the car so you have to have a minimal tool set to work on it, using very standardized nuts, bolts, fasteners, things like that,” Evernham said. “A very small lightweight trailer – you’re not going to need a 45-foot trailer with ten of these things. We want to prove to people that you can about come with a little single-axle utility trailer and four spare tires and wheels. Hopefully you can walk into U.S. Legends and walk out the door with everything you need to go racing with a very affordable price.”
Since leaving his role with Gillett Evernham Motorsports – currently known as Richard Petty Motorsports – Evernham has spent his time running the East Lincoln Speedway. With a renewed focus on grassroots racing, Evernham has turned an eye to developing racing’s next big stars.
“Being able to race the same car, with the same rules around several different tracks is by far and away an advantage for developing and comparing young talent because you are comparing apples to apples and giving a guy or a girl an opportunity to go to different racetracks and compete in different levels all around the country,” Evernham said.
In addition to helping develop U.S. Legend Car International, Evernham has also put a bid in to purchase Motorsports Management International (MMI), a marketing and management firm that represents drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.
“It’s not like I will have an office there that I’ll be at every day,” Evernham told FoxSports.com’s Lee Spencer. “My part will be some of the driver development and help with driver coaching, driver management of some of the current talent that they have. I think I have something to offer business-wise and may be able to have conversations with guys like Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin on a different level as an advisor. Where right now it may be hard for someone to come to me for my opinion or advice on something when I really don’t have anything to do with them. I’m pretty excited.”
By taking control of MMI, Evernham would provide yet another avenue to help mentor and develop younger drivers coming up the ranks. From racing advice to help with sponsors, these hopefuls would have one of the best in the business on their side as they try to make it in one of the toughest sports to break into.
There is such an emphasis as of late on the negative aspects of racing, yet few are offering realistic ways to change the sport for the better. Ray Evernham is an exception to that rule. After resetting the bar as a crew chief with Jeff Gordon, he helped Dodge return to NASCAR, revived the East Lincoln Speedway and is now focused on bringing the next generation of racers into the sport as best he can. With U.S. Legend Cars International and MMI under Evernham’s wing, the future of racing is looking pretty bright.