Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (14773)

K-LOVE Radio will join Michael McDowell in his move to Front Row Motorsports, partnering with the No. 34 Ford team for five races in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. K-LOVE is known nationally for its “Positive & Encouraging” message and has been part of McDowell’s racing career since 2010.

On the 2018 schedule, K-LOVE will be showcased on the No. 34 Ford at ISM Raceway (March), Richmond International Raceway (April), Daytona International Speedway (July), Watkins Glen International (August) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (September).

K-LOVE is a non-denominational, non-profit radio network with more than 400 radio signals in 44 states. Headquartered in Rocklin, Calif., its programming also streams live on 

“Sometimes sponsors come and go in racing, but I’m really proud that my relationship with K-LOVE has been a long-term one,” McDowell said. “Wherever I’m traveling, whether I’m having a good day or a bad day, K-LOVE is there – on the radio or online – with positive and encouraging music. I’m grateful for that, and I’m grateful for K-LOVE’s support throughout my career.”

K-LOVE’s CEO Mike Novak shared, “K-LOVE’s ongoing partnership with Michael McDowell has been exciting to say the least. NASCAR fans are so loyal to Michael and to K-LOVE, and for that we are thankful. And now to partner with Front Row Motorsports, we can’t wait to get 2018 started. See you at the races.”

The K-LOVE Ford will make its 2018 on-track debut at ISM Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 11. The Ticket Guardian 500 will air live on FOX.


GoDaddy Inc. (NYSE: GDDY), the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures, and Danica Patrick are teaming with Premium Motorsports for next month’s Daytona 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The one-race deal will put Danica in the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet Camaro, the same car number she competed with in her first foray into stock car racing at Daytona in 2010.

When Danica gets to Daytona, not only will she have a familiar car number, but she’ll also have a familiar face atop the pit box as crew chief Tony Eury Jr. will return to the NASCAR Cup Series garage to take the helm of the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet team. Eury Jr. previously served as her crew chief when she raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2010 to 2012.

“I keep saying, I couldn’t have written a better story about how this would all fall into place – going with the flow is working out beautifully,” said Patrick. “I’ll be back in GoDaddy green, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet with Tony Jr. in my ear again. It all makes my last NASCAR race just that much sweeter.”

Eury agrees. “It wouldn’t be just any opportunity that could coax me back to the pit box, working with Danica and GoDaddy again at Daytona is going to be fun – when you can do what you love and be in your element … well, I can tell you, it doesn’t get any better. Danica and I have shared success before in Daytona, and she has a lot more experience under her belt now, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve during Speedweeks.”

Premium Motorsports recently purchased the assets of Tommy Baldwin Racing. The NASCAR Cup Series organization will utilize the charter held by the No. 15 entry to field the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet at Daytona. As a result, Danica will be guaranteed a starting spot in the 60th running of the “Great American Race.” The No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet will be powered by ECR Engines, which have earned more than 250 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories. In addition, the team will receive engineering support from Richard Childress Racing.

With less than a month to go before the Daytona 500, the race team, based in Mooresville, North Carolina is working to put the finishing touches on the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet.

“We’ve been working on this behind-the-scenes for a while,” said Premium Motorsports team owner Jay Robinson. “Now that we’ve finalized the deal, we’re 100 percent focused on getting the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet ready for Daytona. Our team finished eighth in Daytona 500 last year and I know everyone here at Premium Motorsports is prepared to give Danica the best opportunity we can to get another great result as she runs her final NASCAR race.”

Just last week, GoDaddy and Danica announced their plan to work together again with primary sponsorships in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. Her final two races, being dubbed the “Danica Double,” mark an end to what is considered the most successful career of any woman in racing history – and the beginning of Danica’s next chapter as an entrepreneur and business owner.
In addition to the high-profile race sponsorships, GoDaddy is supporting Danica’s life-after-racing by powering the online presence for her business endeavors related to health, apparel and wine – all of which are enriched with her brand and GoDaddy’s savvy in helping people turn their business dreams into reality. 

What’s Next: Expect Danica to unveil the new No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet with Premium Motorsports within the next two weeks.

To get the first look at the No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet in early February, follow: @DanicaPatrick and @GoDaddy on Instagram. #DailyDouble

To find out how you can create your own website, or get coaching from our personalized customer service, visit:

Danica Patrick PR

Officials from Rick Ware Racing (RWR) announced today that longtime Keen’s Buildings will return as a financial and marketing partner for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.

The Keen’s Buildings colors will fly as the primary partner for upcoming announced races, while serving as an associate marketing partner for the remaining events.

Keen’s Buildings headquartered in Live Oak, Fla. is the leader in storage buildings, steel garages, greenhouses, residential and commercial red iron buildings and steel carports.

Keen’s Buildings was founded in June 1999.

“Kevin (Keen) has been a longtime partner with Rick Ware Racing and we’re thrilled to continue that relationship this season,” said RWR team principal Rick Ware. “With his passion for Motorsports, Kevin has also been actively looking for companies within his company platform that he can introduce to NASCAR.”

Keen said the passion of RWR makes the partnership a perfect fit.

“We’re ready to see the green flag drop in the Great American Race the Daytona 500,” added Keen. “Rick and the team have made some significant improvements to the organization and we’re excited to be a part of his transition from the NASCAR XFINITY Series to Cup and look forward to a year where we’re increasing our role with the team, but also introducing some new companies to NASCAR.”

Keen who also supports riders in the Monster Energy Supercross Series says the demographics in Motorsports, particularly in NASCAR fits perfectly with his consumers allowing the opportunity to increase his involvement for 2018.

“A lot of our consumers love and embrace Motorsports, especially NASCAR,” mentioned Keen. “You go to a race track on any given weekend and the enthusiastic and loyal race fans are exactly the consumers that purchase our products from Keen’s Buildings.

“It’s not surprising to see our consumers turn their own product from our store into their own showcasing their love and devotion to anything Motorsports related.”

Last month, Rick Ware Racing announced that they had secured a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports securing the team a berth not only into the Daytona 500, but the remaining 35 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events in 2018 as well. 

RWR’s driver announcement for the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Sun, Feb. 18 is forthcoming.

For more information on Keen’s Buildings, please log on to

For more on Rick Ware Racing, please “like” them on Facebook ( or visit

Rick Ware Racing is on Twitter. Follow them @RickWareRacing.


A year after qualifying into the 2017 Daytona 500, Gaunt Brothers Racing and D.J. Kennington are returning to Daytona Beach, Fla. for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season opener on Sunday, Feb. 18.

GBR will field the No. 96 Toyota Camry for Kennington in the 60th running of the 500, allowing the team's Canadian owner, Marty Gaunt, and their Canadian driver another crack at The Great American Race. British Columbia-based Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol (Wakefield Canada), a longtime Kennington partner, will co-sponsor the effort.

"We're honored to have Lordco and Castrol return with Gaunt Brothers Racing for the 2018 Daytona 500," said Gaunt. "Both companies are leaders in the automotive industry, and they appreciate the value that racing brings to their programs. Their support of D.J. and his racing career further demonstrates their commitment to the sport of auto racing.

"Last year was an exciting time for all of us and we look to improve on where we left off. The 500 is such a iconic event; to have two Canadian companies, along with a Canadian driver, in the Great American Race again makes it a special event for our entire team."

Hailing from St. Thomas, Ontario, Kennington became the first Canadian to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years. A day later, Member of Parliament Karen Vecchio officially recognized the driver and team's feat on the floor of Canada's House of Commons.

Kennington is a two-time NASCAR Pinty's Series champion and 19-time Pinty's Series race winner. He has made 62 career starts in NASCAR's three national divisions, with a best Cup Series finish of 26th coming last fall at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

"Last year was an awesome experience for my sponsors, Lordco and Castrol, and me. We knew once it was over, we wanted to do it again," said Kennington. "Marty and everybody at GBR is pulling out all the stops for us this year. I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Lordco/Castrol Toyota Camry and seeing the difference a year makes."


The Love’s Travel Stops and Front Row Motorsports partnership will extend into a sixth season in 2018. The familiar yellow and red Love’s paint scheme will return to the No. 34 Ford Fusion for 18 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races with driver Michael McDowell.

The Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company will adorn the No. 34 for a half-season schedule that includes the season-opening Daytona 500, both races at the company’s home track of Texas Motor Speedway, the Bristol Night Race and the Darlington Raceway throwback weekend. 

The 2018 season marks a sixth straight year of successful partnership between Love’s Travel Stops and Front Row Motorsports. Love’s has progressively grown its NASCAR marketing program with the team, incorporating its employees, customers and business partners into its success.

“We look forward to kicking off another great season in Daytona with Front Row Motorsports and welcoming our new driver of the No. 34 Love’s Ford, Michael McDowell,” said Dave Frankenfield, vice president of marketing for Love’s Travel Stops. “Bob Jenkins and Jerry Freeze continue to provide great value and flexibility in our partnership while working tirelessly to put a competitive car on the track each week. They also help create a unique race-day experience that allows our customers and employees to be a part of the Love’s race team.”

Love’s Travel Stops is family-owned and operated with more than 440 locations in 41 states, offering clean, modern facilities stocked with fuel, food and supplies for travelers. McDowell, a 10-year veteran of the series, looks forward to being an ambassador for Love’s both at the track and away from it.

“I know first-hand what it’s like to drive a motorhome all over the country with my family on board,” says McDowell. “So, I know how important it is to have a clean and safe place to stop at any hour of the day to fuel up, grab some snacks and whatever else we need on a road trip. Love’s has all of that, both for regular consumers like me and for professional truck drivers who make a living out on the road.”

The Love’s Travel Stops team will make its first on-track appearance of the year during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway next month. The No. 34 team will compete in the Can-Am Duels, the qualifying races for the Daytona 500, on Thursday, Feb. 15. The Daytona 500 is scheduled to run on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. ET and will air live on FOX.

Finley Named Crew Chief

Derrick Finley will be the one calling the shots atop the No. 34 pit box in 2018. Finley has been named crew chief for McDowell’s team after serving in the same role for Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 team in 2017. The veteran crew chief has been with the organization since 2011.

For more information about Front Row Motorsports, visit For more information about Love’s Travel Stops, visit


Five NASCAR icons – two drivers, a crew chief/owner, an engine builder/owner and a broadcaster – were enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight during the Induction Ceremony held in the Crown Ball Room at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates make up the ninth class of The NASCAR Hall of Fame, which now holds 45 inductees.

A pioneer of the sport, Red Byron won the first NASCAR race at the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1948. That year, he went on to win NASCAR’s first season championship in the NASCAR Modified division. The next season, Byron won NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock title – the precursor to today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Byron achieved these feats despite having to drive with a special  brace for his left leg, which he injured serving in the Air Force during World War II.

In the 1990s, Ray Evernham paired with Jeff Gordon to rewrite the NASCAR record books. Evernham guided Gordon to three championships in four seasons (1995, ’97, ’98). The pair collected a series-high 47 wins in the 1990s, taking the checkered flag in two Daytona 500s (1997, ’99). A skilled innovator, Evernham’s ‘Rainbow Warriors’ pit crew revolutionized the modern pit stop. He won 13 times as an owner and led the return of Dodge back to NASCAR in the 2000s.

“I stand here tonight before you very humble, very thankful, and very grateful to be a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Evernham said. “Martin Luther King said that if a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets as Michael Angelo painted or as Beethoven composed music. He should sweep the street so well that the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, there goes a great sweet sweeper. And I read that quote a long time ago, and I realized the best way I could pay back everyone who believed in me was to work hard and be a good street sweeper.” 

Ron Hornaday is statistically the greatest driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history. The Californian boasts a record four Truck Series championships and won 51 races. He also tops the series annals with 158 top-five finishes. In 2009, Hornaday won five straight races, a feat matched by only two other drivers in NASCAR national series history.

“This is for every short track racer that ever had a dream, ever had a heart, ever believed in anything that you can believe in, this is it … the Hall of Fame,” Hornaday said.

Few broadcasters in any sport could weave words together like Ken Squier. He is best known for calling the 1979 Daytona 500 on CBS, providing the play-by-play for the first live flag-to-flag coverage of “The Great American Race” – a moniker he coined. Following that event, Squier called races on CBS and TBS until 1997 before shifting to the studio as a host for NASCAR broadcasts until 2000. He founded MRN Radio in 1970.

“In our sport, there are innovators, builders, advocates, challengers, heroes, and an announcer now and then, who all have a part to play,” Squier said. “This is always a thank you time speech, so many to deal with. Some of us are inconceivably lucky to call these folks friends.  I think we all call them heroes.  And I'm feeling like an odd duck in a flock of fancy geese, let me tell you.”

A dual-threat, Robert Yates’ excelled in engine building and team ownership. He provided the engines that powered Bobby Allison to his 1983 championship and Richard Petty to his 200th win. He launched his own team – Robert Yates Racing – in the 1980s. As an owner, he won three Daytona 500s, and the 1999 premier series championship with Dale Jarrett. Overall, his team claimed 57 victories.

Yates lost a tough fight to cancer last October, but wrote his acceptance speech before he passed. The highlight of the night was a video of Jarrett reading the words of his late team owner.

“I never prayed to win a race, I just prayed for the wisdom to help me make good decisions,” Yates wrote. “My creator didn’t always give me what I asked for, but he gave me more than I deserved.”

Each of the five inductees had an inductor who officially welcomed them into The Hall: Winston Kelley (Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame) for Red Byron; Ray J Evernham (son) and Jeff Gordon (former driver) for Ray Evernham; Wayne Auton (former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Managing Director) for Ron Hornaday Jr.; Phil Scott (Vermont Governor) for Ken Squier; and Edsel Ford (member of the board of directors for Ford Motor Company) for Robert Yates.

Active and former drivers introduced each inductee during tonight’s program: Martin Truex Jr. for Red Byron; Ben Kennedy for Ray Evernham; Kevin Harvick for Ron Hornaday Jr.; Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Ken Squier; and Brad Keselowski for Robert Yates.

In addition to the five inductees enshrined today, Jim France was honored as the fourth recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

France, the chairman of the board for International Speedway Corporation, began working in the NASCAR industry as a teenager in 1959, learning all aspects of the business from his father, NASCAR Founder Bill France, Sr. France founded the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series in 1999. In 2012, he led the merger of GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series, forming the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

“No one deserves this award more than Jim France,” said France’s niece, ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy. “He is the epitome of what the Landmark Award represents.”

Prior to tonight’s Induction Ceremony, trailblazing motorsports journalist Norma ‘Dusty’ Brandel was awarded the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

Brandel became the first woman to report from the NASCAR garage when she covered her first race at Ontario Motor Speedway in 1972. She reported on NASCAR for more than six decades for several papers, including: the Hollywood Citizen-News, San Fernando Sun and Valley View, and Glendale News-Press. She serves as president and executive director of the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association


Robert "Red" Byron was a true NASCAR original – the sport’s first crowned champion (NASCAR Modified Series) and first Strictly Stock Series (the current-day Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) title winner – and now he will join the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a nod to his historic achievements and the exciting foundation he helped establish for the sport.

Byron’s racing career will be formally honored as he is inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame during its Friday, Jan. 19 ceremony in Charlotte, N.C. joining a fittingly accomplished class that also includes the late engine builder/team owner Robert Yates, Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., championship crew chief Ray Evernham and pioneering broadcaster Ken Squier.

Byron, who passed away in 1960 at the age of 45, was the sport’s first champion, and bona fide head-turner. He answered his 1948 Modified Series title in 1948 with that historical Strictly Stock crown a year later winning two of the eight Strictly Stock races that season en route to that championship in a car owned by another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Raymond Parks.

Like many others of his era, Byron’s story and his contributions to the sport are even more incredible considering his service to his country long before he thought about a checkered flag.

He served in the United States Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. Assigned to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Byron suffered a severe injury to his left leg while flying in a combat mission during the war and later had to wear a specially created steel leg brace while racing. A version of the brace, which had to be attached to the clutch pedal of his race cars, is mounted in one of his cars displayed in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It hardly slowed Byron down. The Virginia native-turned Anniston, Ala. resident had nine top-10 finishes in 15 starts, winning a pair of races and a pair of pole positions in three years of Strictly Stock competition.

He won on the Daytona Beach, Fla. road course in 1948 – earning one of the most iconic checkered flags in NASCAR history - and he answered the victory at another of the sport’s most storied facilities, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway months later.

He was recognized in 1998 as one of NASCAR’s all-time Top 50 drivers for his historic efforts.

"In so many ways he was the perfect first champion," the late NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. once said of Byron. "A guy who loved racing so much, he refused to give it up. And he loved his country so much he gave it all he had."

Following his stock car career, the former flight engineer turned his focus to developing a sports car to race in the famed 24 Hours of LeMans in France, however Byron died of a heart attack while finalizing details for the effort.

NASCAR/Holly Cain

Tonight, we inducted five of NASCAR’s finest into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Red Byron, who won NASCAR’s first championship back in 1949, revolutionized the sport by giving 

it its first champion. On his venture to become champion, statistics show just how much the sport has changed. Byron, who won the championship in 1949, ran just six of the season’s eight events, winning two, and securing four top five finishes. Red Byron getting into the Hall of Fame is a monumental remembrance of the roots of the sport of NASCAR, by honoring its first champion.

Byron died in 1960, but his legacy will live on through the Hall of Honor in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


Ron Hornaday Jr was the king of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He won four championships in his years running for the truck title, which ranks as the most in truck series history. In 2009, Hornaday won four straight races, another truck series record, while driving the iconic no. 33 car for the now defunct Kevin Harvick Inc. Ron Hornaday Jr is a NASCAR legend, and was treated as such this evening by being enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


Crew chief Ray Evernham, famous crew chief of the “Rainbow Warriors” for Hendrick Motorsports and Jeff Gordon back in the 1990’s, was given the honor of being enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Evernham, who was with Jeff Gordon for three of his four NASCAR cup championships, became an owner in his later years in the sport. Forming Evernham Motorsports, he created the iconic no. 9 and no. 19 teams, cars that would give stars like Kasey Kahne his start, and give drivers like Jeremy Mayfield, Bill Elliott, and Elliott Sadler competitive rides to finish their cup careers in.


Also given the nod, premier engine builder Robert Yates, who we lost just this past October due to cancer. Yates both headed a wildly successful race team, Robert Yates Racing, who fielded the iconic no. 28 car which would be driven by future Hall of Famers Ernie Irvan, Ricky Rudd, and Davey Allison. On the flip side, Yates was perhaps the best engine builder the sort had ever seen. Creating Roush-Yates Engines with partner Jack Roush, the pair would give winning motors to over 129 cup races and 118 pole positions. The pair also won a cup championship with Dale Jarrett in 1999. Jarrett, who made the no. 88 Yates car famous, is now a current Hall of Famer as well for his driving career.


Last but not least, being inducted is Ken Squier, who called some of NASCAR’s most famous finishes and races. Squier, who perhaps called the most iconic finish in NASCAR history, the 1979 Daytona 500, was a pioneer in NASCAR becoming a staple of Sunday afternoons on television screens around the world. Squier also called the first flag to flag race to be broadcasted in its entirety on television, which took place at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in 1971. Squier has already been enshrined in the Hall as the winner of the award bearing his name, the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence, now he will enter the Hall of Honor as a true Hall of Famer.



Behold, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018. They have impacted our sport in so many positive ways, and tonight, we will celebrate their accomplishments and give them NASCAR's highest honor, a spot in the sport's Hall of Fame.

Online lighting retailer will return to the No. 38 Ford Fusion in 2018, partnering with driver David Ragan for four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. The Garland, Texas-based company agreed to the multi-race deal after Front Row Motorsports introduced it to the NASCAR landscape in November, when sponsored Ragan’s team at Phoenix International Raceway. 

On the 2018 schedule, will join the No. 38 team for races at Auto Club Speedway (March), Texas Motor Speedway (April), Dover International Speedway (October) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (November).

The Internet-based lighting retailer offers LED bulbs, commercial fixtures, Christmas lights, lighting controls and other lighting products. Founded in 1996, has grown from two to 250 employees and today sells nearly a half million dollars a day in light bulbs and fixtures, with founder Kim Pedersen earning the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award along the way.

Ragan visited the headquarters in November, met company employees and learned about the organization’s marketing initiatives and goals. The driver and race team will now work to connect the retailer with fans and business partners throughout the NASCAR industry.

“Kim and his staff are smart business people, and they know a good opportunity when they see one,” Ragan said. “I’m thrilled that they saw the value of our sport, and working with Front Row Motorsports in particular, when they partnered with us for a race last fall in Phoenix and decided to get more involved this year.”

“We’re excited to continue our journey in NASCAR during 2018,” said Pedersen. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner in Front Row Motorsports, or a better brand ambassador than David Ragan.”

The No. 38 Ford will make its 2018 on-track debut at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on March 18. The Auto Club 400 will air live on FOX.

Barbour Named Crew Chief

Seth Barbour will lead Ragan’s No. 38 team in 2018. Barbour has been named crew chief for the team after serving in the same role for Front Row Motorsports’ No. 34 team in 2017. Barbour and Ragan previously worked together when Barbour was an engineer on Ragan’s No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team.

For more information about Front Row Motorsports, visit For more information about, visit


Even before answering the first question from a ready group of racing reporters about his induction Friday into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Ray Evernham, 60, insisted on making an important point.

"I want to make it clear to everybody on the [conference] call, I know you thank me for the time, but it’s an honor to be able to sit here and take questions for the Hall of Fame," Evernham said.

"I can do this all day if you want,’’ he added, with a laugh.

He certainly would have plenty to discuss in his NASCAR Hall of Fame career that began at Bill Davis Racing guiding a young Jeff Gordon before serving as crew chief for three of Gordon’s four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships at Hendrick Motorsports and then owning a flagship team himself that led to some of the sport’s great crowning moments.

Under Evernham’s leadership with the famed "Rainbow Warriors" No. 24 Chevrolet team, Gordon rolled to 47 premier series wins in just seven full seasons before Evernham transitioned to a completely new role and fresh challenge: Premier series ownership.

Evernham operated and succeeded in similar style, spearheading Dodge Motorsports' triumphant return to Monster Energy Series racing in 2001. Fellow Hall of Famer Bill Elliott earned Evernham Motorsports its inaugural victory in that 2001 season finale at Homestead, Fla. – the first of 15 total wins for Evernham’s team.

And the veteran Elliott added a dramatic Brickyard 400 trophy for the team the very next year – in one of the most celebrated victories in NASCAR.

Young Washington-state bred Kasey Kahne joined the operation to earn Rookie of the Year in 2004 and then immediately challenge for the series championship with six wins the following season.  Kahne also hoisted all five of the Evernham team’s XFINITY Series race trophies as well.

It is the definitive modern day NASCAR success story of a two-fold career that produced trophies, championships and ultimately, Hall of Fame recognition alongside the most important people in the sport’s history.

No question, Evernham’s work with a young Gordon is what put his name in the NASCAR vocabulary.

He is only the third designated "crew chief" to be voted into the Hall of Fame, and the first in five years. And considering he worked with Gordon for a relatively short term – seven years – the huge success they enjoyed is even more remarkable.

Obviously, Gordon’s immense talent had a lot to do with the results, but Evernham proved to be an expert at making it all possible.

"You know, there’s a big difference in what I call 'coaching' and 'managing,'" Evernham said. "I don’t like to be a manager. I don’t like to be a business-type manager where you’re just directing people. But I really enjoyed the coaching, working with people together, solving problems, being part of a team, that kind of environment.

"Whether I should try to think I deserve to be even mentioned in a Lombardi style or not, that’s kind of who I patterned after. Tough on people, drive them hard, but cared about them. You’ve got to be able to have that compassion along with determination.

"That part I enjoyed. I loved working down on the floor with the guys. I loved being at the race track.’’

Evernham still insists that it was a difficult decision to step off the pit box with certain future Hall of Fame driver in order to develop his own team with Dodge.

But the New Jersey native also conceded, it was just in his makeup, to pursue and continually challenge himself. The opportunity with Dodge was intriguing and proved Evernham’s abilities on a grander scale. And he certainly delivered on the big stage - again.

"It wasn’t a no-brainer,’’ Evernham explained of his decision to leave the championship Hendrick organization to start his own.

"It was a really, really, really interesting opportunity. It was something that I struggled with because Hendrick was my home. Rick Hendrick has been good to me. I had a lot of my success and things there. It was a tough decision to look at where I really wanted to go, what I thought I could do."

"The emotional connection to Hendrick and to Jeff was very, very tough for me,’’ Evernham said. "But the excitement of being able to take that challenge, just to see if you could do it. ... I don’t know, it’s that Evel Knievel in all of us knowing that if I don’t make that jump, I’m going to bust my butt, but I still really want to do it."

And Evernham landed the jump.

The opportunity to field cars for a former champion in Elliott along with the promise and results of a handful of young drivers – such as Kahne, Casey Atwood, Jeremy Mayfield and Elliott Sadler – made Evernham’s gamble worth it.

And when he decided to walk away from the daily demands of either working as a crew chief or a team owner, Evernham had to feel absolutely proud of his effort -- an effort long applauded and now officially recognized as Hall of Fame worthy.

Married to racer Erin Crocker and father to two-year old Cate as well as 26-year old Ray J from his first marriage, Evernham now works as a consultant for Hendrick Motorsports and hosts the popular Velocity network show, "AmeriCarna."

"When I look at the guys that I’m in there with, it blows me away,’’ Evernham said, anticipating the heralded ceremony Friday night in Charlotte. "I have been for months, struggling to find the right words to describe it, which I still haven’t, and that will be a problem I guess Friday night if I don’t get those words completely.

"I can tell you that it really truly just amazes me because I have never held myself in the same light as I hold a lot of those people. When you’re growing up, you’re thinking, 'Man, if I could only be as smart as that guy, or if I could only ever be as good as that guy.'

"Now going into the Hall of Fame with some of them, ahead of some of the others, it just totally blows me away.’’

NASCAR/Holly Cain

Exactly one month from today, the green flag will wave over what is expected to be the youngest DAYTONA 500 field in NASCAR history. And today, NASCAR announced an update to the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure in all three national series, placing a brighter spotlight on some of those young stars.

Beginning this season, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year point system will mirror the points structure that awards the season-long championship, including stage points and playoff points, with the eventual Sunoco Rookie of the Year earning the most points throughout the season.

As is the case with the season-long points structure, a race win will earn a Sunoco Rookie 40 points and five playoff points. A second-place finish will earn a Sunoco Rookie 35 points; a third-place finish nets 34 points, and so on. A Sunoco Rookie who wins a stage will earn 10 points and one playoff point.

"The focus on our rising stars has never been stronger and simplifying the Sunoco Rookie of the Year system made perfect sense," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "Our fans track closely the progress of our young drivers and matching the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points structure with the championship points will help them follow this prestigious program and award more closely than ever before."

The new Sunoco Rookie of the Year guidelines will take effect in all three NASCAR national series – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.