Ray Evernham is free at last.
The former crewchief, team owner and current ESPN analyst revealed Saturday that he is no longer contractually bound to the team now known as Richard Petty Motorports,and is free to entertain offers from rival race teams. Evernham had been barred from working for other NASCAR operations, even after majority owner George Gillett stripped him of his management role more than a year ago.
“I am free and clear,” said Evernham to reporters at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “According to my (legal) people, every contract I've had has been breached in every shape or form. I have been buried under a mire of legal paperwork, caught up in something I don't really want to be involved in. But it is what it is.”
Despite widespread speculation that he might return to Hendrick Motorsports to assist former driver Jeff Gordon or lend his expertise to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s struggling #88 Chevrolet, Evernham said he has no interest in returning to a full-time competitive role. "I have no desire to be… the guy on top of the box,'' he said. "I'm past that. That was a different time in my life. I have a lot to offer in a lot of different areas. I don't want to be pinned down in one area.”
He admitted that a part-time consultant’s position might pique his interest, and left the door open for a return to his TV duties in 2011. "I love my ESPN job and the people I work with,'' said Evernham. "We're talking about that. We haven't talked about specifics (and) I haven't made any decisions because I haven't had enough time to talk about it.
Evernham is still owed millions of dollars by Gillett from the original sale of the team in 2007, and said he is mulling legal action to collect the amount due. He hinted that Gillett’s much-publicized financial problems could make a lawsuit pointless, however, saying, “Before you file a lawsuit (though), you have to make sure there is something to get.” He also restated his support for Richard Petty’s attempt to assemble an investor group to wrest control of the operation away from Gillett, and expressed confidence that Petty will ultimately be successful.
In his words, "He has the support to get it done.''
Sources close to the situation say RPM may close its doors Monday, only to reopen the following day under a new name, with a new ownership team that does not include George of Foster Gillett. That move will allow the team to proceed without the encumbrance of its existing RPM contracts, allowing them to retain select team personnel while letting others go. The team will downsize from its current four cars to two in 2011, with drivers AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose.