- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- A fan approached Ray Evernham at the SEMA Show on Wednesday and asked what driver Reed Sorenson will bring to Gillett Evernham Motorsports next season.
"I'm not getting a new driver," Evernham said. "Gillett Evernham is getting a new driver. I'm not really involved there."
Evernham's role as the minority owner at GEM has been reduced to almost nothing since June. Soon his minority ownership will be reduced to almost nothing as plans are in the works to buy out most of his remaining 20 percent interest in the organization he formed in 2001.
"We're working on that and hope to make some announcement shortly about where I'm going to be doing for the rest of my racing career," Evernham said.
Evernham hesitates to use the word retirement. He still plans to be actively involved in racing, whether it's through his broadcast career with ESPN or other ventures he's working on.
He's opening a new shop in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte, N.C., that will serve as his headquarters.
"The day that I'm out of racing completely they'll be throwing some dirt on me," Evernham said.
Does his future include owning another race team?
"Let me think about that ... uh, no," he said with a laugh.
Does it include a management role, such as the one he was offered with Stewart-Haas Racing?
"Let me think about that too . . . uh, no," Evernham said.
Evernham doesn't want a role that consumes his life as being an owner and crew chief did. He's enjoying getting back to grassroots racing with the new fuel-injected cars he's building and spending more time with his 16-year-old son.
"I've been so focused on one project at a time my whole life, it's good to be eased up and be able to look at a few different projects," he said.
Evernham is considered one of the great innovators in racing. As the crew chief for Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports from 1992 to 1999 he won 47 races and three Sprint Cup championships (1995, '97 and '98).
A fan at the SEMA show insisted he should return to being a crew chief, saying Evernham was better at that than he ever was as an owner.
"But I won a bunch of races as an owner," countered Evernham, who has 15 wins and 27 poles as an owner.
Replied the fan, "Well, kind of."
Evernham paused and then said, "We won. You've got to remember, as a crew chief I won a lot of races and made a lot of money for somebody else. As an owner I didn't win as many races, but I made a lot of money for me. There's a difference."
Evernham takes offense when people suggest he failed as an owner.
"I don't think a lot of people realize exactly how hard that was," he said. "I was a good crew chief. I also started a program from nothing, helped Dodge design a car and a motor. We came out in 2001 and did three or four times better than Toyota did in their first year."
Dodge had four wins and sat on several poles in 2001. Toyota didn't win a race during its first season in 2007.
Coincidental or not, GEM's performance this season has suffered since Evernham's role on the competition side was reduced. Kasey Kahne was on a tear prior to that, winning three times (All-Star race, Coke 600 and Pocono) in a four week period. He followed that with a second at Michigan to move to seventh in points.
He's 14th heading into this week's race at Phoenix with no wins and only five top 10s over the past 18 races. He's had seven finishes of 30th or worse.
But Evernham believes Gillett will turn things around and make the organization a winner again. He hopes people will remember the role he played in building it.
"I don't think we did too bad," Evernham said. "And I was able to sell the company and do quite well."
And now he's looking at something else that will make him happy and allow him to enjoy life.
"I'm taking a little breather and looking at how I can help the Gilletts accomplish what they want to accomplish and still accomplish what I want to accomplish," Evernham said. "I'm just stepping back to see what's the next stage of my life."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.