Ray Evernham has graduated to great successes since leaving his home state of New Jersey for the world of NASCAR in North Carolina. He is a former Sprint Cup winning crew chief for Jeff Gordon, owner of his own team, and currently a broadcaster on ESPN.
Despite all this, he has never forgotten where he got his start. A 1/3 mile high-banked paved speedway known as Wall Stadium. A track where he not only worked on a car, but drove to victory, over drivers he considered his heroes. The lessons he learned at the oval near the Jersey Shore were the basis for most of his success at the highest levels of NASCAR.
The track continued to produce talent long after Evernham left for the South. Martin Truex Jr. currently competes in the Sprint Cup Series, after getting his start at Wall. His younger brother, Ryan, has competed in Nationwide races, and is currently signed to a development deal with Richard Petty Motorsports. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers like Jamie Tomaino, the late John Blewett III, and his younger brother Jimmy, all got their start at the historic track.
It isn’t just driving talent the track has produced, however. Bruce Cook, who was a Nationwide winning crew chief with Tony Stewart at Daytona, and currently holds that role for Ron Hornaday Jr. on the Camping World Truck Series, is a graduate of Wall Stadium Speedway. Phil Gould, another former competitor there, is the current crew chief for Brian Scott in the Nationwide Series. They are joined by several key members of various teams throughout the sport.
When tough times befell this historic track Evernham kept a keen eye on the situation. The track actually closed several times due to a combination of new ownership, promotional team changes, and a poor economy.
While Wall held a special place in Evernham’s heart, he also knew it was very possible the track could meet the fate of many others lost in the state. A victim of valuable real estate being developed into either housing or commercial properties.
He, according to a February 2009 Stock Car Racing magazine article, actually began discussions to build a new race track in New Jersey.
“We’ve talked with some other partners about maybe building a track in New Jersey at some point. If you lose Wall Stadium, I want there to be a place to race so that next Martin Truex can have some place to graduate from. It was a great place to go and learn on a Saturday night.”
Thankfully, for both racers and race fans in the Garden State, Wall Stadium Speedway has remained open under the promotions of the Krause family, and Evernham never had to build a new track.
However, the next season, 2014, is the last for the current lease, and while there is nothing to indicate it will not be renewed, that cloud of uncertainty will return until it is.
Evernham currently owns East Lincoln Speedway, located in his adopted state of North Carolina. It is a track he takes great pride in.
That being said, there is no place like home. It would certainly be interesting to see if Evernham would rekindle the idea of a new track in New Jersey should the current lease for Wall Stadium Speedway be it’s last.
That is something no one, including Ray Evernham, hopes they have to even consider.