Ask any seasoned NASCAR fan to name the top three crew chiefs of all time and chances are very good that Ray Evernham will make the cut.

As leader of Jeff Gordon's famous "Rainbow Warriors" in the 1990s, Evernham's teams won three Sprint Cup championships in four years (yes, they were Winston Cup trophies in those days, but you get the point).

Evernham moved on to spearhead Dodge's return to the sport, forming his own operation, until merging with investor George Gillett to form Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

With the recent announcement of his departure from GEM, Evernham answered questions at the Sprint Sound and Speed Fan Festival in Nashville about his relationship with the company, his thoughts on the merger between Gillett and Petty Enterprises, and his former protg, Jeff Gordon.

"I have no input in day-to-day operations there at all," Evernham said of his former business. "I basically retired from Gillett Evernham. I do still have a consulting agreement. I do still have an ownership stake in that, a minority ownership stake."

"I was not involved in the Petty merger or the Elliott Sadler incident," he added, referring to the recent firing and then re-hiring of Sadler as driver of the No. 19 car.

"I think that George and Richard can do a lot of things together marketing-wise. I hope they both find what they're looking for to get their performance up where we originally thought it could be. The name 'Petty' needs to be in our sport. If he and George can find a way to get the Petty name back to Victory Lane, I think that will be a really, really good thing for NASCAR in general.


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What about a return to championship form for Jeff Gordon in 2009?

"It's tough to predict the championship," Evernham said. "Jeff Gordon will win races in 2009. I'll guarantee he'll be a factor going into the Chase and he will win races."

Evernham put to rest rumors he is leaving the sport.

"I'm not done with NASCAR," he said. "I know some people have said that I'm burned out or I was soured on NASCAR. That's just not true. When I sold my team last year, I knew I'd taken it as far as I could take it. I needed some help to win a championship.

"Hopefully George Gillett and Richard Petty together can continue on that path and win a championship. There's still plenty left for me to do. I'm just not sure a hundred percent what it is."

"The biggest thing I've got to do, I've gotten to know my son again," Evernham said.

"My son is 17 years old now. We're pretty good friends. So that's meant a lot to me."

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached by e-mail at sports@yorkdispatch.com