Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief Ray Evernham is returning to ESPN as a NASCAR analyst for the 2012 season.
Evernham will join ESPN’s team at Daytona Speedweeks and will be part of NASCAR Countdown before the NASCAR Nationwide Series race that airs on ESPN on Saturday, Feb. 25, at noon ET. He also will appear on NASCAR Now and SportsCenter from Daytona as ESPN’s multimedia platforms surround the opening of the NASCAR season.
Evernham, who won three championships and 47 races as crew chief for Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports, will be an analyst on NASCAR Countdown for many of the 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races that will appear on ESPN networks in the second half of the season. In addition to his work on NASCAR Now and SportsCenter, he will help call several NASCAR Nationwide Series races from the booth.
Evernham was an analyst for ESPN from 2008-2010 but left prior to the 2011 season when he took a consulting position with Hendrick Companies, a management company that oversees strategic initiatives for chairman Rick Hendrick, who also owns Hendrick Motorsports.
“I chose to take a year off from ESPN out of respect for ESPN and Hendrick Motorsports,” said Evernham. “I didn’t want to create any perceived conflict of interest while I got my bearings at Hendrick and didn’t want to cause distraction to either company.
“Now that I’m settled at Hendrick Performance, I don’t have any involvement on the racing side of the operations and it frees me from any conflict with NASCAR teams,” he said. “Mr. Hendrick and I have worked out an agreement that allows me to return to the ESPN team.”
Evernham has a history with ESPN dating back to 2000, when he appeared as an analyst on ESPN and ABC’s coverage of the IROC Series and some NASCAR races. In 2007, he was a guest analyst on NASCAR Countdown for several NASCAR Nationwide Series telecasts and was featured in Race Wizard with Ray Evernham, a program that aired on ESPN2.
“I’m glad to be coming back to ESPN,” Evernham said. “I really enjoy the team camaraderie at ESPN and I’m very much at home with this group from my previous three years,” he said. “Stock car racing is my passion and I’m looking forward to being back involved. I’m excited about the momentum NASCAR has going into the 2012 season.”
Evernham, who raced Modifieds in his native New Jersey, rose to prominence in NASCAR after hanging up his helmet and becoming a crew chief. After his championships with Gordon and Hendrick in the 1990s, he started his own team to coincide with Dodge’s return to the top level of NASCAR racing in 2001. He sold the race team in 2007.
With the return of Evernham, ESPN will again have five former NASCAR champions as analysts, including 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup driving champion Rusty Wallace, 1999 champion Dale Jarrett and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chiefs Tim Brewer and Andy Petree.
“We welcome Ray back to the team and look forward to enhancing our coverage of NASCAR with the knowledge and expertise he brings to the table,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production. “He’s a solid professional and a well-respected voice in the sport.”
ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage begins with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29.
About NASCAR on ESPN:
ESPN produces comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Additionally, ESPN is the television home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ESPN’s NASCAR coverage extends to ESPN.com, SportsCenter, ESPN the Magazine, WatchESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN International, among other ESPN platforms. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981 and returned to NASCAR coverage in 2007. The network’s award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN has been honored with 19 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide.