If you had to find the personification of a renaissance man in American sports car racing today, then look no further than Ryan Eversley. A number of people have grown up in the sport, but how many have made the transition from behind the wall as part of the pit crew, to behind the steering wheel as a race car driver? And a darned good one too! The Georgia native has podium finishes in the ALMS, GRAND-AM and Continental Tire Challenge among others. When not amassing a trophy collection, he’s coaching other drivers and a passionate crusader for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. On top of all that, he entertains a growing legion of followers on Twitter and Vine with cheeky humor as well as surprising video skills. Of course, that’s when the driver also known as “El Diablo” isn’t co-starring in another Weekend Warriors Production like Intergalactic – GRAND-AM Style and Jordan Loves Stickers.
Dave Chappelle joked that everything automatically looks cooler in slow motion which is why racing footage always includes drivers walking around in slow motion. It makes them look heroic but then there are guys like Ryan Eversley who can flip the switch from super-cool to super-dork in slow motion, just to make us laugh – and still kick butt on the track. I got a chance to talk with him about his social media exploits and heart for charity; as well as his past, present and future in sports car racing.
ML@S: I love your Vines man! When you started out did you expect that you were going to be this Vine master with stop motion, and stuff like that? I mean come on…
Ryan Eversley: (chuckling) I look at things like that, the same with Twitter and other social media platforms, especially the Vines – I look at Vines like a game almost. Some people play Words With Friends, I play with Vine. To me, if I can figure out a way to do something funny like the stop motion or making it look like a Lego can move or something, it’s more entertainment for me than anybody else. And when everybody else started liking it I was, “Ok, well then I’ll just keep doing them.”
ML@S: By the way, I see that you’ve officially crossed the 1,000 mark for Vine followers. Congratulations!
RE: Oh thanks, I didn’t know! I stopped looking at it. That’s awesome! I was looking at it a week ago and it was 993 like we were getting pretty close, and then I stopped looking at it because I kept checking on it like every five minutes, “Did I get another one? Did I get another one?”
In terms of how many followers people have, you know there are people out there that have millions of followers already, a thousand is not that much. Plus everything is on my Twitter account so it’s like I have like 6,000 if you think about it like that. I think I might have the most when out of sports car racing people (on Vine) but only because I put stuff up there like constantly.
ML@S: How long have you been obsessed with Lieutenant Jim Dangle?
RE: (laughing) Not very long, in fact I was more of a fan of the Beastie Boys than Reno 911 but when we were making that video, we had to make it funny and so, that was actually my idea. I was like, “You know I’m in the cop car why don’t I wear some Daisy Dukes or something?” and Jordan thought it was a great idea, and Ricky did too.
ML@S: Jordan tweeted that they were going to make another video. Do you know if you’re going to be in it? Is that a volunteer kind of thing or does he just round up whoever he finds at the paddock?
RE: We actually almost did a video a few weeks ago, which we might still end up doing a similar concept with. I can’t tell you what it is but a few weeks ago there was something going on in our sport that we were all kind of passionate about; and immediately, Jordan and I started texting and it was like “Hey we should do a video this week.” So I was actually looking at flights to fly to Orlando and we were going to do it around his parents’ house, since it’s warmer down there. We ended up deciding that we’re going to wait until Daytona or Sebring for our next one; or maybe a little bit in between. But yes, they’re always doing funny things down there and coming up with ideas; and then I hear about them. Basically I told Jordan that if you need another guy to act like an idiot to make some of our fans laugh, then I’m in forever. So we’ve got a good relationship going on that.
ML@S: I’ve got to tell you as a racing fan, especially because sports car racing seems to be very buttoned up. I pick up what you’re putting down in that it’s goofy, yes, but it’s fun.
RE: Doing the video was really fun in Kansas because I’d never spoken to Jon Fogarty or Alex Gurney before, and I couldn’t believe how funny both those guys were. And I’d just been around them but I didn’t know anything about them, other than just what you know from the paddock and stuff. They were both so funny and Fogarty was cracking us all up with this fruit. That’s how that ended up in the video. He brought an orange with him, and we were like, “What do you have an orange for?” and he said, “I’m going to eat it like an apple cause it would be funny” and we were like, “Ok sure, why not?” and then we said “Oh wow, that’s really funny! We’ve got to get like a banana and some other stuff.” So for me that was really cool to see how cool those guys are because they’re big-time Daytona Prototype champions and all that; and they were so laid back and funny.
ML@S: You had a recent discussion going on Twitter regarding the Muscle Milk Pickett team entering the PC championship.
RE: I think the PC class is the best thing in the world of sports car racing because it’s so cheap for what you get out of it, and I’m always ranting and raving about it. The average fan doesn’t realize that it’s cheaper to run a PC car than a GTD car or a Rolex or ALMS GTC car or whatever. And when I tell them that, they’re always like, “What!?!” and that’s why I’m always bringing it up.
ML@S: How old were you when you got bitten by the racing bug?
RE: I was about three months old. My Dad was a crew chief for a bunch of GTP IMSA teams back in the 70’s and 80’s. When I was three months old, I came to the Daytona 24 Hour. My Dad was running a Porsche 962 for Bob Aiken Motorsports and they had the Coca-Cola 962 Porsche; and so I was in the pit lane – three months old down here, being carried around by my Mom. So I was at the race track ever since. I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of ALMS/IMSA races as a kid. That’s why I’m so addicted to sports car racing because it’s all I’ve ever known my entire life.
ML@S: I read on your GRAND-AM.com profile that you worked as a mechanic at the 24 Hours of Le Mans at eighteen?
RE: Yes I did, I worked for Knighthawk Racing and at the time they had an MG Lola EX257, so I got to go to Le Mans and do tire changes for the LMP2 team; and it was a really great experience as far as getting to go to Le Mans that young and seeing how big the race is and everything. The race itself was horrible! Two of our drivers were gentleman drivers that really, honestly, had no business being at Le Mans yet. They just weren’t working up to speed and the car was very fast, and difficult to drive if you don’t know how to drive a prototype car. So we had Duncan Dayton, who has been racing, has his own race team, Highcroft Racing, and everything – he was awesome! He was one of the best guys to work with; and then the other two guys who were in the car, they were gentleman guys. They were spinning every other session and breaking things. And finally crashed the car in pit lane on the Thursday night qualifying, had to patch the tub, because the Le Mans’ pit lane entry is a chicane that mirrors the front straightaway chicane? It’s midnight, dark out and one of our drivers basically jumped the chicane in pit lane, went right into a tire wall, and put a hole in the tub. So that was how that week went; but then in the race, we ended up having one of the turbo exhausts crack and it lit the body work on fire. That ended up burning the car down, and we ended up not finishing the race so it was kind of a bummer; but very cool to see that event at that age.
ML@S: You seem to have been on the path to become a person who would be supporting a driver, rather than being a driver yourself. Did you have to make a choice between being part of the crew and being the driver?
RE: The whole reason I became a mechanic was because I wanted to be a driver and I don’t come from a wealthy family, and so I knew I’d have to make connections. I’d have to meet people, make a good impression and also get to know everything I possibly can about racing. I was very fortunate that I met a guy named Mike Johnson, who runs Stevenson Motorsports in the Continental Tire Challenge. At the time he owned a team called Archangel Motorsports and that was my first job; and through him Archangel partnered with Knighthawk and that’s how I got to go to Le Mans.
The first race I did with him was the 2001 Daytona 24 Hour; and I was basically cleaning wheels and pushing tire carts, and I was just helping with anything I could; and we ended up winning that race and that was my first race on that team, so that was a really good experience. I worked there for two and a half more years, before I started getting rides and working for other teams. But Mike set the tone for me early. He would do deals where he’d get a guy that wanted a co-driver or something, and he would ask me, “Hey if you work on the car for the weekend, he’ll let you drive it.” So I was working different ways to get into cars, and it was mostly from turning wrenches and doing business-to-business deals like that. The goal was always to be a driver, I just had to find a way to get in a car, and so that was the direction I went.
Then in 2004 I got to race in the ALMS, an LMP2 for three races, and it was a deal where if I built the car with another guy, they would let me drive it. So that was kind of how that worked out, but then in 2005 I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any rides and I thought that I was going to be shut for life. I didn’t have anything. I worked on a prototype car that year again – 2005. In 2006, about halfway through the year, a friend of mine switched GS teams in the Continental Tire Challenge and the seat was left open. I said, “Hey would you put my name in the hat?” They said, “Come on and test.” I tested and I got the ride, and I’ve been in that series ever since. It’s one of those things. I really enjoyed being a mechanic. I have great, great memories of it but all I really wanted to do was drive.
ML@S: Fewer and fewer race car drivers have that kind of mechanical background. Do you feel that that having that experience gives you an edge as a driver?
RE: Honestly the best thing it did for me was it gave me a better idea of how to deal with the crew from the driver side of things, because when you work for a team as a mechanic, you’re with that crew full-time, you know. That’s your job, every day from seven to seven you know, crazy hours. You build cars together and you travel together, you room together. It’s basically your family and as a driver, even if you drive for a team full time, he probably lives in a different part of the world from the team. You only show up for the three days, a weekend or if you go testing or whatever. You’re not as much of a team member as your basic mechanic is; and so one thing I noticed right off the bat as a driver is, I would show up and I never felt like, I was close as I was when I was a crew member, you know.
I remember as a crew member, drivers would get out of the car and they’d complain, and they’d bitch about things breaking, or “I don’t like the seat” or “I don’t like this.” And I remember as a mechanic [thinking] “Buddy, I’ve got a hundred things on my list right now to get this car ready, and I don’t need to listen to you, complain about your water bottle not having ice in it or whatever.” But you have to be sympathetic to it and now from the other side when I get out of the car and I look at my mechanic, Steve or my crew chief, Ray and I say, “Hey, you know the steering wheel is topped a little bit to the left.” I’ll look at them and say like you’ve got like ten things you’ve got to do. I’ll let him later when he’s got some time to fix it. You know what I mean?
At the same time if I notice a problem with the car, selfishly I’ll want to keep driving but I know, hey look it’s going to take them six hours to change the gear box or whatever. I’ve got to tell them right now, and we’ve got to get doing it, even though I want to keep driving and just kind of deal with the problem. The cars nowadays are so mechanically sound that you can get in one, beat the snot out of it for twenty-four hours and most of the time they finish, and it’s all good. So I don’t know if it gives me an edge as much on the driving side, but I think it gives me an edge as being a professional in the sport.
— The Stuttgart Cup™ (@StuttgartCup) November 17, 2013
ML@S: Which race track is your favorite?
RE: My favorite race track is probably Virginia International Raceway. My first professional race I did there was with Continental in 2003 and it was awesome. I had a really great time. I got my first pro win there in 2010 and I won there again in 2011. 2009, I raced the finale there and I had the fastest lap ever done in a Continental GS car, which I was really happy about. I’ve just had a lot of really good memories there and it’s a beautiful layout. It’s almost like a European track in the high-speed sense? It’s not as wide or smooth, but it’s got a lot of technical stuff and it’s also very fast. It’s just been a really, really great place for me to go and race for the last ten years, so it’s probably my favorite.
ML@S: How did you get involved with Children’s Tumor Foundation and Dave Dusick?
RE: Four years ago at the Daytona 24 Hour I had a sponsor called Luna-C Clothing. It’s a clothing company I’m sponsored by and still work with, and they gave me a little bit of sponsorship for the 24Hr because were just about to launch a line of clothes. So I had a choice on basically the last three cars that were available. [They] were Porsches, and two of them were from the TRG team and one of them was the CTF car. I had seen the CTF car and had no idea what it was about; but as a child, I had spinal meningitis and I’m deaf in my left ear. So I had really wanted to do something with a charity [for] like my whole career and now I had a chance, so I [chose to] drive the Children’s Tumor Foundation car; and those guys didn’t have a pro in the car at the time. So I would not only be getting to work with a charity but I would get to be the starting driver, the qualifying driver and I could kind of lead that team.
When you’re looking for guys to do the Daytona 24 Hour, you want guys who can lead you through the whole program, so if you look at like Andy Lally, he’s always leading his team. Spencer Pumpelly’s always leading his team. Wolf Henzler’s always leading his team; and so, I wanted that experience, even though at the time I didn’t feel like I was as fast in a GT car as those guys were. But I wanted the experience of leading, being in charge, being the lead driver, setting the line-up, setting the strategies, doing the car set-up, all that stuff. The week went so well. We qualified seventh in a car that had been crashed massively the year before and here we are putting it seventh on the grid. We out-qualified Jeroen Bleekemolen and Bill Auberlen and some other really big name drivers. For me, that was a really huge, huge shot in the arm; and we also had 175 kids show up. I spent the whole week signing autographs and hugging them, and taking pictures with them – just everything. It was a mind-blowing experience. It was probably the most positive experience I’ve ever had in motorsports, maybe in my life.
Afterwards I said, “Hey why don’t you guys stick around on my race car that I’m racing for the season with Compass 360.” They said, “We’d love to!” and so we just donated some space on the car to keep their logos out there; and I’ve been with them ever since. It’s been fantastic. I did an auction last year where I think we raised like $10,000 with racing memorabilia and things like that; and I’m constantly keeping their logos on my car. I go to the charity walks where they try to raise awareness. I go to the gala in New York and go the big dinner they have, where they’re trying to raise money. I’m basically just a spokesman for them, just to try to help them cure neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a tumor disease and it’s just terrible.
So that’s how the CTF association began, and through that I’ve met Dave Dusick who is a good buddy of mine from up in Indianapolis; and he works for a bunch of race series. He works at the speedway and he’s just a racer. He’s been around forever and he has his charity, which is the I Know Dave Dusick Foundation. He reached out to me through a buddy of ours named Michael Palmer. We were actually going to do something in Indy last year and it didn’t pan out. We didn’t have time and this year we actually got on the ball and for every $20 t-shirt we sold, all the proceeds would go to the I Know Dave Dusick Foundation, which is the Riley’s Children’s Hospital just outside of Indianapolis. Dave had a childhood illness and it wasn’t thought that he would survive and way worse off than I ever had, and he’s still around, giving everybody a “hard time.” You know he and I have a lot in common, so we did the t-shirt thing and it worked out really well. I think we sold a couple hundred dollars in t-shirts and raised some money, and it was a really positive experience. Now I run into guys and girls wearing the shirts at the racetrack, it really trips me out!
ML@S: Give us some insight into your campaign on the Eagle Rare Life website.
RE: Eagle Rare, the liquor company, is putting on a charity social media campaign, where anybody that’s nominated can win $40,000 sponsorship towards a charity. So if I win, I can donate $40,000 to any charity of my choice and I’ll never even see a dime. I would just tell Eagle Rare, if I would win, “This is the charity of my choice” and they’ll write them a check! That’s for the person that wins the vote, and after that six people are going to win a $4,000 donation to their charity. So even if we don’t win the big $40,000 we could still $4,000 and when it comes to charity, I’ve learned every penny counts. Every dollar counts. It’s so critical so even if we don’t get the big check, which would be really hard to do because there are a couple hundred people entered. I got nominated (for) that by The Wheelman Show, which is a radio webcast that goes to Sebring and they do a big Sebring deal; and they’re just a bunch of good dudes that I met through Twitter actually. They actually nominated me, without me knowing about it and they sent me the link. I saw it and I literally had a tear in my eye because I was like wow, they wrote this perfectly! This is exactly what I would have wanted it to say if I had written it. So Eagle Rare accepted it and we’ve been tweeting and Facebooking it ever since. I think we’ve got about 5,000 votes. I think we are in the top twenty; and the top twenty are who they’re going to choose from. So it’s not necessarily who’s has the most votes. It’s who makes it to the top twenty, and they’re going to have a panel of people decide who should win.
The background on me is when I was two years-old, I had spinal meningitis. I spent a good six or seven months in the hospital, and had a lot of touch-and-go nights, when my parents didn’t think I was going to make it. Fortunately I was able to survive, and the only side effects are I’m really, really fast in a race car and I’m deaf in my left ear; so that worked out for the career choice that I wanted. But the Eagle Rare thing, I’m not even much of a liquor guy, you know what I mean? I like beer personally and having seen this, I thought, “You know what? That is a genius move on their part because more that people follow me know what Eagle Rare is now, than I would have thought.
If I had a million-dollar corporation, I’d be doing this every month, you know? It’s great exposure for them and it goes to a good cause no matter who wins. So for me, I thought, wow that’s a really smart move on their plan. I really hope more companies pick up and do the same thing. It’s a really good thing and what a lot of people forget is that raising money is a huge part of it, but that raising awareness is another huge part of it. And even if we don’t win, 5,000 people have seen CTF, have seen the words “Cure NF,” have seen my name next to a charity; and so even if we don’t win, we’ve spread that word quite a lot. In fact, we’re talking about it right now, so there’s proof in the pudding. So even if I can’t raise a dime from the whole thing, at least I’ve raised awareness and that’s all it takes. You never know who’s gonna see. It could be a guy who just sold his Fortune 500 Company and reads the thing and goes, “Wow, my nephew has that disease. I didn’t realize there was a charity I could donate (to) for it. Here you go.” So you know, that’s what it’s all about, spreading the word and trying to raise awareness as well as money, so that’s why we’re doing it.
ML@S: I’ve visited the website about the CTF and Cure NF with Jack, and Dave. It’s very difficult, especially when something that is so rare affects children. So we’re happy to help get the word out this disease and these kids need help. Getting the word out about NF is a very admirable use for your time.
RE: I’ve been telling everybody since I started doing this stuff, most sports cars are privately funded here, have got associate sponsors. If you have a race car and don’t have a spot for a charity, what’s your excuse? There’s no reason not! It’s a rolling billboard that gets on TV and gets in front of people. It takes two seconds out of your day to get a decal made, to go put on the side of a car. Or call a charity that’s already out there, they’ll send you stickers. They want the exposure too, you know?
RE: That’s been my thing, like if I have a race car, I will tell the guy that’s hiring me to drive it, “Hey if you don’t mind, can we put the decal on there?” I’ve never had anybody say no and if they did, I’d say, “Pay me a little bit less so I could have some space for the charity.” But none of them have ever said no because who’s going to say no to helping kids, especially when I’m yelling at you about it?
ML@S: Quite right! What you’ve said encapsulates it perfectly. There’s no excuse. What’s in store for you for 2014? I know that a lot of series are still putting things in place in certain respects, but where are we going to see ya?
RE: I’ve signed back with Compass 360 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, and rejoining my co-driver from this season, Kyle Gimple. We’ve had a really successful season. We had four podiums, I think, six or seven top fives and we’re the only front-wheel drive car in the top thirteen cars in points and we finished second. So I think we had a really strong showing. We also had a couple races where we had calls that we disagreed with from the stewards. So you take one of our bad races that we had, whether it was our fault or the series’ fault or whatever; you take just one of those away, and we might win the championship. So I’m really excited to go back into another year of that possibility of having podiums and results, and getting to do it with a guy like Kyle. (We) got along great from the moment we met. We’re both into the same kind of stuff outside of the racetrack, so we just got along really well. It’s not like I’m going into a year with a co-driver that I’m not sure about, I don’t know and I hope I get along with. It’s like yeah, I get to hang out with my buddy for another year, and hopefully we get to get some more podiums under our belt.
Outside of Continental, I ran in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series this year. We won a race and had a couple podiums. One of my clients that I coach is looking at racing in that again and so if that happens, we’ll do the full season of racing of Lamborghinis but it’s kind of on the fence. As of right now, I’m struggling like everybody else I know, to find a ride for the 24 Hours of Daytona and the long races in the Tudor Championship. To be completely honest it’s very difficult to find anything because of the class caps and then also, there’s the manufacturers that are selling cars to team owners and to gentleman drivers are demanding (use of) drivers from their manufacturers, like Porsche factory drivers or GM factory drivers, and I have no factory backing. So it’s a little difficult now this early out to figure out what’s available and what’s not. To be honest you know, I’m basically shaking every tree I can, saying, “Can I please drive your car?” and unfortunately most of the responses are, “We’re waiting on said manufacturer to tell us who they want,” or “Can you bring a big check with you?” And I don’t have either of those things, so unfortunately this could be one of those years when a lot of people don’t get rides and I might be one of them. And then something could happen in the next few months and I could luck out, but I’m very fortunate to have my Compass ride. It’s my fifth year with these guys. I’m the longest (running) driver that they’ve kept on the team, so it’s an honor to be with somebody like that; and I think it also shows that I’m a guy that you want to have on your team for a long time. That’s been successful on track and I think that’s good for future jobs.
MLAS: One more question since you’re a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guy. In tonight’s UFC 167: St. Pierre or Hendricks?
RE: I’m a Renzo Gracie blue belt, under Paul Creighton and GSP is a Renzo Gracie black belt, under Renzo Gracie, so basically the lineage of my Jiu Jitsu family. Just like if you were a Roush driver, then you learned from Jack Roush; or to be a Hendrick driver, you learned from Rick Hendrick, or Ganassi. That’s kind of like how it is with Jiu Jitsu, just to make it relevant to racing. The guy who teaches Jiu Jitsu from my background’s name is Renzo Gracie and he’s in New York City and, the Gracie family basically created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from the ground up. So Renzo is in New York and GSP trained under Renzo to get his black belt. My Jiu Jitsu instructor and Sensei, Paul Creighton also trained under Renzo Garcie, and I know learn from Paul. So what I learn from Paul is the same that Renzo taught Paul. It’s the same that Renzo taught GSP. So I like Hendricks because I just think he’s a cool guy and like he’s a good dude, he deserves the success; but family Jiu Jitsu speaking, I’ve got to go with GSP.
A Final Word
Ryan Eversley has probably done more by in his twenty-nine years on earth, than most of us will have accomplished in a lifetime. Yet it seems as though he’s only just getting started. He’s a lesson to us that the in reality, the race car drivers who live a charmed life with their pick of cars, series and other worldly pleasures are a select few. The majority must do everything they can, to stay in this sport; and still make helping others a priority. Please visit his profile on Eagle Rare Life’s website and vote for him – repeatedly: http://eaglerarelife.com/node/611. He’s crossed 5,000 votes but still needs our clicks to stay in the top twenty and be considered for the $40k donation. Follow Ryan on Twitter to stay updated with his career and his latest Vines: https://twitter.com/ryaneversley.