"For a day, I got to be a NASCAR driver" - Eversley

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"For a day, I got to be a NASCAR driver" - Eversley

NASCAR

"For a day, I got to be a NASCAR driver" - Eversley

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The high of running his first NASCAR Cup Series race over the weekend has not yet worn off for Ryan Eversley.

Eversley drove a Rick Ware Racing car on Sunday at Road America and couldn’t stop smiling afterward. Smiling or talking about it and engaging with followers on social media. Monday night, Eversley finally made it back home after about five weeks on the road, and his latest racing accomplishment really set in.

“When I walked into my place last night, I put my bags down, and it’s just like this decompression of, ‘Oh man, that happened. Like, that actually happened,’” Eversley told RACER. “I’m over the moon. Somebody said ‘I hope you get to do it again’ and I said ‘If I don’t, I’d be totally content with it because it went as well as I could have hoped for.’ Obviously, the mechanical failure wasn’t what I was looking for, but that happens.

“Yeah, I loved it.”

Eversley’s debut ended after 27 laps in the Jockey Made in America 250 because of a rear gear issue. He finished 39th after qualifying 31st earlier that day (better than he thought he would, and then Eversley decided to start at the back out of everyone’s way). Knowing it may be the only chance he gets to compete in the Cup Series, Eversley’s main goal was to embrace the weekend.

“Why go in with the, maybe I could win or maybe I could top 15 it, and be let down when those realities hit home later?” Eversley said. “So, my number one goal was to go there and enjoy the experience. Take it all in. Don’t overanalyze anything. Don’t be too concerned about pace. I know how to drive a race car, I just won an IMSA sports car race last week, so there’s no having to prove myself to the people that know me. So why not go in there – no matter what happens – and enjoy every little bit of it?

“My biggest frustration would be if I sat down on the couch (afterward) and went, ‘I was three tenths off in Turn 1.’ Who cares? I want to think about this event for the rest of my life and go, ‘Hey, I got to do a Cup race against some of the greatest guys ever to do it and one of the toughest types of racing on the planet and the biggest form of racing in North America.’

“I’m glad I walked out of there with that experience, and I enjoyed it versus being frustrated that I could have done better. It’s like, yeah, yeah, whatever. It’s really this amazing thing I got to do because, for a day, I got to be a NASCAR driver.”

Eversley’s debut could have come sooner. It started when Eversley reached out to Rick Ware last year about a Ware prototype in the 24-hour race, but the team didn’t have a sponsor, and Eversley didn’t either. Coincidentally, when fans saw TBA on the driver entry list, they began tweeting Ware to put Eversley in the car. Eversley joined in the social media fun, giving Ware a hard time.

Ware was blown away by the fan response and support for Eversley. It planted the seed that if Ware ever had an opening for a road course race with a sponsor, Eversley had the support system to make it worthwhile.

“I was supposed to do the road course at Daytona (last August), but because they didn’t have practice, I couldn’t get approved for a license,” said Eversley. “So, we kind of sat on it and sat on it. Then we were talking about Road America because I love that place, and Nurtec wanted to run a second car to get a little more buzz … and I knew my fans would come through, and before I even sat in the race car, they were already super happy with the response because everybody on social media went bananas about me doing a Cup race.

“Before the race, Rick pulled me aside, and he was like, ‘It doesn’t matter what happens today, man, you’ve already won for us because your fans are promoting the hell out of this. So, just go have fun.’ I was like, ‘Yes, sir.’ That’s exactly what we did.”

A sports car ace, Eversley found that acclimating to a stock car wasn’t that difficult. Instead, his biggest problem was that he wasn’t able to make it to the Ware shop to get properly fitted for a seat and the team instead went with one based on his height and weight. It made for a slightly uncomfortable ride.

On the track, though, “I know to heel-toe downshift, I’ve been doing that my whole career. I like power sliding cars off corners. The hardest thing was the braking in my car. I don’t think was as good as it could have been, and not trying to go too deep on the brakes to make up the difference. The car weighs twice what sports cars do, and it’s going so damn fast in a straight line, but you have to slow down early.

“But that part of it wasn’t that hard to figure out; it was mostly visibility out of the cars is a little difficult. They don’t have the same mirrors we do; a lot of our race cars have rearview cameras, so you have, like, a monitor. It was more, get out of [Martin] Truex’s way, that guy’s racing for a championship. Stop cutting Ricky Stenhouse off into the kink, he’s trying to get by you.”

Of his NASCAR experience, Eversley was impressed and grateful to Corey LaJoie, Ryan Blaney, and others who went out of their way to offer advice. Then seeing drivers like Chase Briscoe make mistakes on the track reminded Eversley that “these guys” are human.

“Of course, they’re absolute superstar racers, but I was able to run with them,” he said. “To see Kevin Harvick drop wheels out of the carousel, I’m like, ‘Yep. I’ve done that a million times here, I get it.’ These guys are awesome, but they’re also racers like the rest of the guys I race against. For me, it was like I think I could do this against those guys on any road course on the schedule. Obviously, an oval would be a different story. But it’s kind of a humbling experience because I felt like, ‘OK, I can do this too, and these are some of the best guys in the world. So, good job, man.'”

Eversley qualified a respectable 31st in his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Road America, but elected to start the race from the back of the field. Harrelson/Motorsport Images

Considering he didn’t want to do anything stupid at Road America, Eversley had a good reason to be proud of himself. He’d never made a pit stop in NASCAR and made it through a few cleanly on Sunday before exiting the race. Eversley also felt good about how he raced.

“I started last on purpose and was able to pick people off through the first stage, and I think at the end of the stage I was running right behind Ryan Newman, and I’m like, ‘That’s Ryan Newman. That’s a race-winning Cup driver, and I’m holding pace with him,’ and I was super stoked about that,” Eversley said. “The second stage once we got sorted out, I was able to run down [Daniel] Suarez, Newman again, [Ryan] Preece – series regulars. To run their pace and the 53 car, which doesn’t normally run that well on road courses, I was really happy with it. I got a lot of compliments from the crew.”

Eversley doesn’t have another Cup start planned, but he’ll gladly answer the phone if an opportunity comes calling.

“If I got a call the day before Watkins Glen, I’d be there,” Eversley said. “I really enjoyed driving the car even though I wasn’t perfectly fit in it, and I know if I did it again, that would be a huge improvement. I think my crew guys on the 53 really enjoyed working with me; we got along extremely well, and they had a lot of positive feedback for me after the event. And so, if it’s one of those things where there’s an open seat at any of the NASCAR stuff, I’d love to try again.

“I think my relationship with Rick is really good. He’s just a nice guy; we’ve always gotten along really well, and we both understand what each other’s trying to accomplish. So if he’s got a sponsor that he wants some crazy awesome fans to talk about, then I’ll happily jump in there.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now that I’ve done a Cup start, I’ll probably be more active in trying to get into an Xfinity or Truck ride at road courses because I’ve got the license. Yeah, hope (to be back).”

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