Certified Man Of The People Ryan Eversley On His NASCAR Debut, Dinner With Racers, And Social Media

"I left there smiling happier than I've ever smiled for a race," Eversley said of his NASCAR Cup Series debut.

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Photo: Logan Riely (Getty Images)

If you’re a motorsport fan that uses social media, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Ryan Eversley before. The Georgia native is a full-time competitor in sports car racing with plenty of cameos in other series like the ever-delightful Stadium Super Trucks — but you’re always going to find him on Twitter chatting with fans, debriefing after a shitty race, or commenting on any other racing that happens to be going on that weekend. Eversley is, in a lot of ways, a man of the people.

“When I was a little kid, I’d go to the racetrack and there weren’t a lot of little kids at the racetrack at Road Atlanta,” Eversley said in a recent interview with Jalopnik. “I remember I’d go up and talk to drivers and try to get autographs and stuff. And the ones that were super nice and engaging, I would immediately be like, that’s the car I want to win. That meant something to me.”

In the modern age of social media, where everyone is just a few keystrokes away, Eversley maintains the same attitude. Not every fan can get to the race track, but receiving a response on Twitter can be a little thrill of its own.

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“It’s not fucking hard,” Eversley said with a laugh. “It’s not hard to give 10 minutes of your time and give a shit about people that come to pay money to come watch us drive around in circles are in our pajamas and try to look like heroes.”

And with so many drivers using social media as a further excuse to curate a PR-friendly image and ignore the little guys, Eversley’s mindset is pretty damn refreshing.

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Eversley grew up in a motorsport family. His dad, John Eversley, is a well-respected sports car mechanic who worked on the legendary Coca-Cola 962 Porsches and was one of the first members of the Panoz Motorsports team. When I asked him when he knew he wanted to be involved in racing, Eversley said it was “before memories even register.”

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“Paul Newman was a big influence on me because I didn’t know if maybe I’d just be a mechanic or some part of the sport and Paul Newman was like, don’t be a mechanic. Be a driver,” Eversley said.

“I remember I came home from that trip to Lime Rock where my dad ran him in, and I’m like, mom, I’m definitely going to be a race car driver! Paul Newman said so! And my mom’s like, dammit.”

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A well-respected name certainly helps get a foot in the door, but a racing career it does not make. It was up to Eversley to carve his path in motorsport, and he started by landing a job as a helping hand at a team called Archangel Motorsports back when he was 16.

“[Team owner Mike Johnson] had a prototype team. Ge gave me a job and I worked for him. And the first six, seven weeks, I think I worked for free,” Eversley said. “He was like, if we do well at Daytona, I’ll have a second car for the rest of you and we’ll be able to hire you. And I was like, don’t care. Like, I’ll work for free. I just I want to be a part of this.”

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That mindset kept Eversley firmly in the racing scene, and he quickly found himself drawn to drivers like Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly — drivers who were as likely to help take care of the race car as they were to actually drive it. Their actions aligned with Eversley’s ethos: do whatever you can to break into racing, get your name out there, and you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor.

But even then, it wasn’t easy.

“I think it was from 2008 to ‘11 was when I was like, this is going to work. Like, we are going to see some success,” he said. “But you’ve got to remember, I started in 2001, so it took seven years. And even then I was like, I hope this works. 2010 was my first full season of racing that I ever did. Every year, it’d be like a six race deal, an eight race deal. It took 10 years to get a full season of racing that somebody else was paying for.”

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For me, the most refreshing thing about Eversley is that he’s honest. He admits that the thing that sets him apart from his other competitors isn’t some divinely-bestowed skill that makes him a god among men. Rather, it’s his willingness to learn and the fact that he’s now able to get a hell of a lot of seat time.

“The phrase that Lally used that I’ve never let go of is pound the pavement. Every weekend, don’t sit in the trailer, go pound the pavement,” Eversley said. And if you’ve ever seen that man in action at the race track — not only competing and attending mandatory autograph sessions but hanging out in front of the garage for hours to chat with fans who have made the trek to the race track — you’ll understand exactly what he’s talking about.

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During the off-season, Eversley is still pounding pavement. He co-hosts a podcast with Sean Heckman, a longtime motorsport content creator, called Dinner with Racers that’s exactly what it sounds like: the two men sit down with some of racing’s biggest icons for a good meal and an even better chat.

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“It all stems from going to dinner with racers that we were all close friends with, that used to all live in Atlanta and had moved to different parts of the country,” Eversley said. “We’d start BS’ing and telling war stories, and it’s all the same dumb shit every time, you know, remember the rental car, remember the potato gun, the paint ball.

“Over the years, one by one, it would get down to just being Sean and I having that conversation. Podcasts were becoming more and more of a thing. It was like, let’s do this.”

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Since then, the podcast has really kicked off, stemming into multiple seasons and even an Amazon TV show. What makes these interviews special is the fact that Eversley and Heckman, as meticulous as they are in their research, are also racing fans that just want to hear a good story. We don’t need another interview with Derek Bell where we talk about nothing but his Le Mans win — the fans want to hear about his stint in IROC, where he competed against open-wheel and NASCAR drivers in a kind of all-star race with an impressive cash prize. And that’s what Dinner with Racers did.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to put the podcast together, though. Eversley and Heckman try to conduct their interviews in person (how else are you supposed to have dinner?), which results in a ridiculous amount of road tripping and planning. The two men have driven across America multiple times in pursuit of a great story. They’ve coordinated one interview after another, often finagling around PR people. They regularly trim a four-hour chat down to about 90 minutes. They’ve had their equipment stolen. And that’s not even taking into account the sheer amount of research that goes into each episode, with the hosts hunting down hard stats as well as reaching out to family, friends, and colleagues to get some of the juiciest stories.

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It all ties back into Eversley’s belief in the benefits of social media and fan engagement, because if there’s one thing to take away from Dinner with Racers, it’s that the hosts are still motorsport fans, too. They’re able to fish out the funniest stories that fans really want to know, and they’ve created a product that has resonated deeply with race fans — in part because it feels so down-to-earth and because sponsors have responded.

Take Continental Tire, for example. Eversley doesn’t compete in a series that runs on Continentals, but the company saw value in sponsoring Eversley’s fun projects like Dinner with Racers — and the fans have responded in kind. It’s a rare day where you don’t see a race fan outfitting their daily driver with Contis because they’re giving Eversley a chance to speak the fans’ language. It’s a model more drivers could do to emulate.

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On July 4, 2021, Ryan Eversley made his NASCAR Cup Series debut with Rick Ware Racing at Road America, a road course in Wisconsin. The car didn’t finish the race due to a part failure, but when I asked Eversley how he managed the disappointment of a less-than-stellar debut, his answer surprised me: He didn’t have to.

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“I mean, sure. I would have loved to have had a better finish, but I had a blast,” Eversley said. “I left there smiling happier than I’ve ever smiled for a race.

“The fan reaction was through the roof, and I was walking on clouds all weekend because everybody was so, so cool. A couple of regular Cup drivers stopped me to say hi and talk to me about stuff and gave me advice, which I didn’t ask for. They were just like, Hey man, any questions?”

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Eversley was also realistic about his propositions for the race.

“I’m proud of myself for executing my actual game plan, which was, don’t go in thinking you’re going to win or that you’re going to impress somebody to the point where they put you in a Hendrick car or something,” he said, laughing. “The reality is, [Rick Ware] cars never finish in the top 20. They’re there to get points.

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“And I’m getting a golden opportunity because a team owner likes me and he knows that my fans will be supportive of a sponsor. They didn’t call me up to like, Hey, you’re the fastest guy in the world, we have to have you. They went, look, we like you. We thought this would be cool. Let’s go do it. So I went there like let’s go enjoy this because I might not ever get to do it again.

I would be a total moron if I spent the whole weekend looking at sector times, like, man, I’ve got to find two tenths. It’s like, I’m not not trying, but I’m also like, this is fuckin’ rad.

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“I had a blast. Like, I wasn’t slow. I wasn’t last. I didn’t do anything too stupid. I made changes to the car that worked. My crew guys liked me. I still talk to them since then. So I walked out of there like, that went great.”

This weekend, Eversley was back behind the wheel of a stock car, albeit not in the Cup Series. Instead, he attempted to qualify for one division down, in the Xfinity Series. Unfortunately, his JD Motorsports machine failed to qualify at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.