Nine Lives: Evernham Knew the Perfect Numbers to Choose
By Ben White
After a very successful career as a Cup series crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports and four-time champion Jeff Gordon from 1992 to 1999, Ray Evernham was given the opportunity to start his own racing organization with support from Dodge in 2000. The storied automaker returned to NASCAR that year.
In 492 starts through 2007, Evernham’s cherry-red Dodge Chargers went to Victory Lane 12 times with drivers Bill Elliott, Kasey Kahne, and Jeremy Mayfield driving his No. 9 and No. 19 machines. Their biggest victory of all came when Elliott won the Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis in August of 2002.
“It was pretty easy when we began thinking about car numbers,” Evernham said. “The No. 19 was my number when I drove modifieds and the No. 9 was always Bill’s number. So putting the 9 and 19 together was perfect. I thought it was a great thing when Roger Penske had the No. 2 and No. 12 and I wanted the same sort of thing for us. It was amazing the 19 was available, but we had to work a deal to obtain the 9 from Mark Melling (son of the late NASCAR team owner Harry Melling of Melling Racing). It was a number his family had for many years.”