Ray Evernham says he's free from deal

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Famed crew chief and ESPN analyst Ray Evernham is free to return to the competition side of the Sprint Cup Series.

Evernham said Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway that he no longer is legally bound to the exclusivity deal at financially strapped Richard Petty Motorsports that kept him from entertaining offers from other organizations.

He said he will entertain offers of being a consultant, making it clear he does not want to return full-time.

"Ray Evernham, for the first time coming into the final race of a NASCAR season, does not have a complete direction for next year,'' Evernham said. "Obviously, 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. I'm probably as apprehensive or a little bit nervous about my future as Ray Evernham has been. I am free and clear according to my people now. Basically, every contract I've had has been breached in every shape or form.''

Evernham sold majority interest in Evernham Motorsports in 2007 to George Gillett. That organization later merged with Petty Enterprises to become Richard Petty Motorsports, but it kept Evernham in the loop as a consultant and would not allow him to work with other teams.

Evernham said he has not brought legal action against Gillett for outstanding money owed him in the original transaction, but he has hired attorneys that have plans in place to do so, if necessary.

"Honestly, the thing before you file a lawsuit, you have to make sure there is something to get,'' he said.

Richard Petty is in the process of putting investors together to regain majority interest from Gillett, who put the race organization in severe financial strain over the sale of his Liverpool soccer team in England's Premier League.

Evernham has done what he can, short of writing a check, to help Petty keep the company running the final five races. He believes Petty will find a way to keep the organization afloat in 2011.

"He has the support to get it done,'' Evernham said.

Evernham isn't sure whether he'll remain with ESPN in 2011 or be with a race organization, or both. There has been speculation that he could return to Hendrick Motorsports, where he helped Jeff Gordon win three of his four titles and help turn around the struggling Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"I love my ESPN job and the people I work with,'' Evernham said. "So we're talking about that. We haven't talked about specifics. I haven't made any decisions because I haven't had enough time to talk about it.

"Everybody will tell you there are tons of offers coming, but your biggest fear is they don't.''

Evernham doesn't want to be locked into anything full-time.

"I have no desire to be held to like the guy on top of the box, to try and come in and save the day,'' he said. "I'm past that. That was a different time in my life. Can you imagine me now with the COT and the rules? I would be suspended.

"I think I have a lot to offer in a lot of different areas. I don't want to be pinned down in one area.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.