INDIANAPOLIS -- After Ray Evernham's cars dominated the NASCAR circuit for a few years, he looked around for an even bigger challenge.
He found one that has taken him from being the best crew chief in the business to novice car owner and point man in Dodge's return to Winston Cup racing after a 16-year absence. But success -- and there hasn't been much yet -- probably won't satisfy him entirely.
Even as he and Jeff Gordon teamed up for an amazing 47 victories and three championships in the 1990s, Evernham thought they could have been better.
"In 1998, when we won 13 races, I'd say to people, 'Yeah, but we lost 20,' " Evernham said. "I'm not ever going to say that I'm happy with what we've done."
Just past the halfway point of the season, that amounts to one pole, by Bill Elliott for the season-opening Daytona 500. Now, critics are asking why Evernham's two cars or the other eight Dodges have not won.
But he isn't discouraged.
"People need to look at the positive," Evernham said. "They've brought a motor from a screen to real life, to something that finishes 500-mile races without a problem.
"These people have taken a brand new car and, no, they're not winning races, but they're pretty darn competitive."
And they could be even better Sunday in the Brickyard 400, when an aerodynamic change to the front end of the Intrepids is expected to make them handle better in race traffic.
But even before NASCAR announced the changes last weekend, Evernham wasn't bemoaning the performance of Elliott or his other driver, rookie Casey Atwood.
"Bill's having a better year than he's had in a long time and a 20-year-old kid is qualifying for races," Evernham said. "My cars have only used one provisional for Bill and one for Casey.
"Look down the list at some of the other cars that have taken provisionals. There's cars that have used six, eight, 10."
Still, criticism of the Dodge effort or that of Evernham Motorsports riles the usually calm car owner. He quickly jumps to the defense of both.
He believes the perception of failure is wrong.
"That's one thing that gets the hair up on my neck," Evernham said. "If we were all golfing and fishing, and working 9 to 5 and running like junk, yeah, then we deserve to get blasted."
But he thinks the Dodge people, his team and all the rest are committed to someday matching the established Chevrolets, Ford and Pontiacs. To Evernham it's not a question of if.
He is determined, the same way he was when he guided Gordon to greatness, to win another series title. Then, he plans to take his revenge -- verbally -- at NASCAR's annual awards banquet in New York.
"I know someday I'm going to be able to stand up there on that stage at the Waldorf and tell them, 'How do you like me now,' "
Elliott, a former series champion whose career foundered before Evernham's interest rekindled his competitiveness, is confident his new boss can overcome any obstacle.
"There's nobody in this sport who works harder or is smarter than Ray Evernham," Elliott said.
But Evernham still gets upset at times.
He was spotting at Daytona last month during the Pepsi 400, and at one point felt like slamming down his headset and jumping off the roof. But he knows patience is the key.
"Hopefully, the young people I've hired are going to help me create my dynasty," Evernham said. "But that's going to take time."
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