| || HARRISBURG, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon has lost the crew chief who
helped him become Winston Cup's winningest driver over the past
Ray Evernham was let out of his contract by Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday. Hendrick promoted Brian Whitesell, a team engineer, to become the new crew chief for Gordon, winner of 47 races and three driving titles since 1994.|
"I have tremendous confidence in Brian and I'm looking forward to many more wins and more championships with him and our Rainbow Warriors team," Gordon said. "We've got a great organization. I'm looking forward to the future."
Whitesell, 35, joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and was selected the team's engineer in 1994, leading a staff of five engineers at Hendrick Motorsports.
Whitesell literally worked beside Evernham on race days, with the two of them positioned atop the team's pit box.
"This is just a fantastic opportunity," Whitesell said. "I'm looking forward to doing the job the best way I know how. Working with Ray has helped me understand the dynamics involved between driver, crew chief and our spotter on race days. Jeff Gordon and I
have always communicated very well also, and that's extremely
Gordon has won five races this year but is sixth in the points,
a virtually insurmountable 471 behind leader Dale Jarrett with
seven races remaining on the schedule.
"My first thought is to thank Ray," Gordon said. "He has contributed greatly to the success of the team, and I wish him success in future endeavors."
|The team of Jeff Gordon, left, and crew chief Ray Evernham produced 47 Winston Cup wins and three championships.
Evernham was under contract with Hendrick through the 2006
season. But there were reports in recent weeks that Evernham was
unhappy and was looking to leave.
"Ray let us know he had reached a point where he didn't want to
be a crew chief anymore," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "In
response to that, we were planning to move him up in the
organization, but he decided he wanted to pursue having a team of
Evernham thanked Hendrick for allowing him to pursue his goal.
"I'm also thankful that he enabled me to work with Jeff Gordon,
who is an incredible winner and may be the best talent this sport
has ever seen, as well as our Rainbow Warriors team and crew,"
Evernham said. "Jeff and that crew will be winning races for a
long time to come."