- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ray Evernham has reunited with former boss Rick Hendrick in a business deal that will not allow Evernham to remain an analyst for ESPN's NASCAR coverage.
Ray Evernham Enterprises has been retained to consult for the Hendrick Companies, a management company formed in 2005 to oversee strategic initiatives for Hendrick, one of the largest automobile dealers in the United States.
Evernham will not be involved on the motorsports side where, as a crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports, he won three Sprint Cup championships with Jeff Gordon in the 1990s.
Evernham will develop special projects related to Hendrick's various business entities, including development of the Hendrick Performance brand of high-performance vehicles for retail consumers.
"It's no secret that I've missed all the relationships I had at Hendrick," Evernham told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "So being able to go work with Rick and the people I knew at Hendrick Automotive, it's going to be like going back to work in the family business side.
"Unfortunately, it could cause a conflict and I don't want to put ESPN or Rick Hendrick or myself in that position. I have had a great relationship with ESPN. If there was any way I could have worked that out I would have loved to do it. That was one of the hardest things about making the decision."
"Ray has been a valuable member of our NASCAR team for the past three seasons and we wish him all the best in his new role," said Rich Feinberg, vice president of motorsports for ESPN.
"If he ever wants to come back, we'd be happy to talk to him."
In a statement Tuesday, Hendrick said, "Hendrick Performance parts and cars will have a racing pedigree, and Ray is someone who will help ensure that on behalf of our customers and dealers. He's assembled a terrific group of people at REE, and I see a lot of opportunities for them to be a valuable resource for our organization on projects like this. I know the kind of high standards Ray sets."
Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports after the 1998 season to form his own Sprint Cup team, Evernham Motorsports. He sold majority interest in that organization to George Gillett in 2007 and opened Ray Evernham Enterprises.
Evernham was freed from his non-compete clause with Gillett in November after the financially strapped Gillett surrendered ownership of the race team that had since been renamed Richard Petty Motorsports to Richard Petty.
Evernham, as he said in November, still is considering legal action against Gillett for millions still owed.
Evernham said his venture with Hendrick does not prohibit him from working on the motorsports side with other organizations. He continues to operate a dirt track in the Charlotte area and this past season he developed a dirt Legends car for Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith.
There was speculation last season that Evernham would return to Hendrick Motorsports to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr. or other aspects of the HMS program. But Evernham made it clear he was not interested in returning to that side of the business.
"I'm not interested in being assigned to a race team," Evernham said. "I'll do whatever Rick needs me to do to help. Right now his main focus is on the business side. The timing is perfect. We're doing things with performance cars as the world is changing in Detroit.
"I'm real excited about all the opportunities to work with the Hendrick brand."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.