Ryan Eversley has a new ride in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that is all about job opportunity – across multiple series, nationalities and countries.
The popular sports car veteran and podcast host will make his season debut this weekend in the GTD category Saturday (5 p.m. ET, USA, Peacock) at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, driving the new No. 51 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 for Rick Ware Racing.
The co-driver is Aidan Read, who also is an engineer for RWR’s NASCAR team (who worked with Eversley in his Cup debut with the No. 53 Ford at Road America last year).
IMSA AT LONG BEACH: Schedules info for watching Saturday’s race
Read is one of several crossovers from Ware’s NASCAR team, which also has moved some of its fabricators (who are less necessary in Cup because of the Next Gen’s vendor structure for chassis, body and parts) to the fledgling sports car program.
Rick Ware just opened a new shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, for his new IMSA team, which has had two one-day shakedowns at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, South Carolina, to get ready for Long Beach.
“We have a handful of (NASCAR) guys who have been at the tests,” Eversley said Monday during a Zoom news conference. “Fabricators are a lot less used in the Cup garage, because they’re using purpose-built parts from suppliers, so we’ve got three to four guys who are still fabricators but are all hands on deck at our events to try to help out. That’s pretty cool.
“These are guys I worked with last year on the 53 car at Road America. So there are a lot of overall people on site helping. They’re not specialists in sports car racing. But Rick will tell you he has a lot of people and a lot going on, he’s not afraid to throw people at it.”
Ware, who also is a co-owner of an NTT IndyCar Series entry for Takuma Sato with Dale Coyne Racing, will race the Sprint Cup events this year with hopes to expand to a full GTD season in 2023.
The program is being overseen by former NASCAR team owner and IMSA team manager Robby Benton and also has a partnership with Eurasia Motorsport to supply crew to prepare the car.
The Philippines-based Eurasia competes in global prototype and sports cars series (and has raced at Le Mans and with a RWR-partnered LMP2 car in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona that included NASCAR’s Cody Ware and Austin Dillon).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions have idled Eurasia Motorsport, which was formed in 2003 with the help of former Formula One safety car driver Mark Goddard (who is the team principal). Ware’s team has provided a lifeline for Eurasia, which has rented a house in America for six months to lodge its team members who now are working on the IMSA car.
“They can’t race too much; it’s really hard to get in and out of the (Philippines),” Eversley said. “So they needed an opportunity, Rick needed a crew, and they had a great experience in the past. Robby Benton has been facilitating getting these guys in the country and set up with housing.
“It’s kind of a really unique situation because obviously, I want to be in a GT car for Acura and doing the best I can for my career, but these guys need work because they can’t actually do anything in the Philippines right now without very extensive things behind the scenes to make that happen. Having them come over here the next six months and be able to send money home to their families … It’s keeping that team alive but keeping these people moving forward in life. So it’s a pretty neat scenario.
“Unfortunate circumstances, but to be a part of something like that is something not taken lightly. Aidan and I at the test, we tried to take care of the car as much as possible because the poor guys have been working so hard and so long to get this car ready, and we know they’re not going to get to see their families for a long time. It’s definitely not lost on us how that’s going to work for this program to work.”
Eversley, who will be making his first IMSA premier level start since 2018, also is grateful for the whimsical way in which he came to drive for Ware.
Rick loves me and has my number, I’ll be ready when he calls but we’re all good in the meantime. Happy to see his boy getting to chase his dreams! https://t.co/savW4ai34G
— Ryan Eversley (@RyanEversley) April 8, 2021
It started last year with Eversley playfully bugging the team owner on Twitter about racing the team’s LMP2 at Daytona.
The positive social reaction from fans caught the eye of Nurtec ODT (which also sponsors RWR in NASCAR and IndyCar). The company asked to put Eversley in its Cup car last July 4 at Road America (where he finished 39th because of a gear failure).
“We had such a good time,” Eversley said. “The Nurtec folks were so happy with some of the interviews I did and my on-track performance, so Rick said ‘Hey, how can we get Acura (an Eversley sponsor) and us together?’ ”
It’s been a scramble since last summer to prepare for the tight and treacherous confines of Long Beach, which Eversley concedes “might be the worst place to start a new program is a street course … we’re super stoked to get through Long Beach, out of the streets and get to some proper racetracks where there are less walls so close.”
His team has bought a car from Gradient Racing and has gotten support from RealTime Racing to help acquire all the parts and pit boxes for IMSA.
At Long Beach, RWR also will have sports car veteran and 2011 Cup Series rookie of the year Andy Lally on its pit stand for strategy calls.
Eversley likes the broad swath of racing backgrounds, particularly from NASCAR.
“Having a Cup fabricator on hand can be awesome because those guys have seen so much and done so much at those races, that they’re probably thinking about things in a way that myself and the Eurasia guys wouldn’t because we’re so used to doing things the sports car way,” he said. “Robby Benton, I can’t say enough about him overall. He’s done it on the sports car side and his Xfinity team.
“He’s been pushing Aidan and I to try to get sim time, more engineering time. Having a guy that passionate, but also if you know Robby, he’ll just tell you right to your face: Go do this. I like having a leader like that.”
He also likes driving for Ware, though he likely won’t race Cup again this year with RWR down to two charters and committed full time to Cody Ware and Joey Hand at road courses.
“Ford is backing Joey Hand, who is kind of good at road racing,” Eversley said. “So I don’t think I’ll be in the Cup Series, but Rick every day is like, ‘I’ll find something.’ He knows how bad I want to do it. I’ve been telling him over and over again, ‘Dude, you just bought me a GTD car. I’m good. This is where I belong and expect to be doing. I want to drive the Cup cars like crazy, but I’m not going to also say, “Hey, thanks for the GTD program, which is going to cost a gazillion dollars and all this responsibility behind your biggest sponsor. Can you also give me more?’ I’m not pushing that.”
Eversley said whether the program increases to a full IMSA season will depend on Nurtec’s satisfaction with sports cars.
“I think the fan reaction is going to be a big part of that,” Eversley said. “I think the car looks super awesome. The fact we can tie toward the Cup program and IndyCar program with the drivers who are there to help build the brand will really depend on it, but the idea was, ‘Let’s go see how the Sprint Cup goes, and then hopefully come back next year for a full assault.’ ”
If so, it’ll mean even more races to attend for Ware, whom Eversley said drove to his team’s IMSA test at 5 a.m. after arriving home from the Cup race at Circuit of the Americas just a few hours earlier.
“Rick’s really into this and very excited about it,” Eversley said. “It’s cool to have someone that passionate, but also he is telling me every time we speak, ‘This is your program. I want to help you and Acura do bigger things.’
“It’s not pressure. It’s support. I feel so backed by him and knowing that he has Cup cars, and I want to drive more Cup cars is definitely something I’m going to try to continue working with on him. It’s been pretty cool.”
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