News & Multimedia

Together Again: Gordon, Evernham Ecstatic To Race Porsche at IMS

Jeff Gordon’s path to driving a race car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway started at a track in the Southern California desert.

Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Gordon is returning to competition this weekend for the first time since driving on the winning team in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He is racing a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car Saturday and Sunday in the Pro class of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islandsduring Porsche Sports Car Together Fest at IMS. It will be the first start at IMS for Gordon since the 2016 Brickyard 400, an event he won a record five times.

Gordon is teaming with fellow NASCAR legend Ray Evernham for the first time since their driver-crew chief partnership ended after the 1999 Cup season. Gordon earned 47 of his 93 career Cup victories and three of his four championships (1995, 1997, 1998) with Evernham as his crew chief.

“The other great part about this, besides working with Ray, is that I get to do this at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Gordon said. “This track is incredibly special to so many people in motorsports, but especially me with growing up down the road in Pittsboro (Indiana) and then racing here for the Brickyard.”

Said Evernham: “For me, it’s a big thrill to work with him. The best racing that I ever had, he was on the other end of that radio. It’s just fun to do that again.”

The path to this fun reunion started at The Thermal Club, a full-service club racing and ride-and-drive circuit in Thermal, California. Gordon, who works now as vice chairman at Hendrick Motorsports, where he spent his entire Cup driving career, was overseeing the Hendrick Performance Track Attack at the facility. The Track Attack program takes older Cup cars in Hendrick’s inventory and converts them into customer cars for use on road course track days and competition.

While Gordon was at Thermal, Don Cusick – who teamed with DragonSpeed this May to field an entry for Stefan Wilson in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – had just purchased a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and asked if Gordon wanted to drive it.

Gordon jumped at the chance.

“I had a lot of fun,” Gordon said. “When I left there, I said, ‘How do I get one of these?’”

Gordon wanted to buy one of the Porsches just for fun on track days. But there was a catch: Porsche requires anyone who buys a GT3 Cup car to race it, as competition always has been part of Porsche’s engineering ethos.

“I really had no intentions of racing this car,” Gordon said. “But that’s the deal you have to abide by with Porsche. I’m happy that I am here doing this.

Meanwhile, Gordon knew who he had to contact about turning the wrenches and running the Hendrick Performance team once he decided to compete in this event – Evernham.

NASCAR Hall of Fame member Evernham, 65, and fellow Hall of Famer Gordon, 51,have stayed close friends since their Cup partnership ended after the 1999 season, when Evernham left Hendrick to own a Cup Series team. Evernham has prepared numerous hot rods and vintage cars for competition through his motorsports-related businesses and has tried to coax Gordon into racing a few of those cars in the past, with no luck.

This time, Gordon picked up the phone first.

“The coolest thing to me was that when this came about, I couldn’t wait to call Ray to see if he wanted to be a part of it,” Gordon said. “I’m glad that he is, and that’s what’s making it a lot of fun for both of us.”

The last time Gordon and Evernham worked together, they sat atop the NASCAR world. Those 47 victories and three championships came in just seven seasons, aided by the famous “Rainbow Warriors” crew that revolutionized the speed of NASCAR pit stops.

It’s different this weekend at IMS. Gordon and Evernham have almost no driving or tuning experience with a 500-horsepower Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, and the learning curve is vertical.

Among the technical adjustments for Gordon is anti-lock brakes. He said he never has raced a car with ABS during his career before this weekend.

Another adjustment for Gordon is the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course. Gordon competed in 24 Brickyard 400’s – all on the 2.5-mile IMS oval. The only time he turned laps on the road course was in a Williams Formula One car during his famous car swap with then-F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya in 2003, and that took place on the old 13-turn, 2.605-mile road course configuration.

“There is a ton to learn,” Evernham said. “That is fun. During our Cup run, we had a great run and won a lot of things. Sometimes you can get a little stale doing that, so when you come and you’re at the bottom of the totem pole and trying to figure it out, it gets that old brain muscle working again.”

The presence of racing royalty in the Porsche paddock this weekend already has attracted plenty of GT3 Cup competitors to the Hendrick Performance garage to meet Gordon and Evernham. And that duo isn’t wasting the chance to not only appreciate the adulation but also try to learn a few tips.

“Some of the younger drivers have come over to meet Jeff and meet me, and it makes you feel good because these guys are like pros, they’re basically 1-2-3-4 up on the board, and they come over,” Evernham said. “So, when they come over to talk with me and Jeff and talk about how fast we used to be, I’ll go, ‘What kind of tire pressure you running there?’ They’ve been great with us.

Gordon was 23rd overall and 14th in class during the second practice Friday as he continued to learn the circuit and more about the car. He only had one-half day of testing at Carolina Motorsports Park and “a lot of iRacing” as preparation for this weekend, so he’s realistic about his chances.

Plus, this weekend is just as much about fun as results for Gordon and Evernham. It’s also even more of a reunion than just between that dynamic duo, as Gordon’s early-career Cup spotter, Steve Barkdoll, will serve in that role for him in these two races.

“I’m a competitor; Ray’s a competitor,” Gordon said. “I think if we’re constantly making progress with the car and the speed and the competitiveness. I don’t know where that’s going to put us. I really want to have fun.

“Having fun to me is pushing the car to the limits, learning about this style of car and this kind of racing and staying out of everybody’s way, as well. Just hanging out with Ray and this team, my dad is here. It’s just a fun weekend of enjoying being at the racetrack in a competitive environment.”

Race one will take the green flag at 3:15 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 3, with race two starting at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 4.

Tickets are available at IMS.com.

Show More Show Less
Items 4 - 8 of 151
Register for IMS News & Updates