ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For the last several weeks, life has seemingly flown by for Ryan Eversley.
On Friday evening he wrapped a busy two weeks at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l with the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which included a victory on June 26 in the TCR class while driving for Atlanta Speedwerks. He didn’t even have time to get out of his race suit before he jumped in a passenger car to travel to the airport so he could catch a flight to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
With a moment to finally take a deep breath and relax, Eversley, with his headphones on, looked out the window of the airplane and noticed a picturesque sunset.
Then he had a realization.
“I was like, ‘Dude. I’m flying to a Cup race to drive it,’” Eversley said. “’I’m going to get there and there’s going to be a car with my name on it.’”
Seemingly hundreds of thoughts of what has gone into his journey to get to that particular moment ran nonstop through his mind.
“It kind of set me back a little bit, like a humbling thought,” Eversley said. “To be able to say I’m a NASCAR driver, even for a day, that’s a dream come true.”
This weekend, Eversley will make his NASCAR debut, doing so in the NASCAR Cup Series at Road America. He will drive the No. 53 entry for Rick Ware Racing.
“If I could do it anywhere, this is the best place on the schedule for me because I’ve had a lot of success here. I’ve done a lot of testing here,” Eversley said. “I’ve been coming here two or three times a year for the last decade.”
Racing with NASCAR has been a goal of his for several years. He hoped to do it in 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions prevented that from happening. Now that the opportunity is finally here, Eversley said he has chills and is beaming with excitement.
“This is all so whirlwind,” Eversley said.
Eversley has always wanted to race a stock car, but never thought his first one would be a Cup race.
“I’m so excited right now,” he said.
However, he also has some pressure on him.
For one, he’s never driven a stock car, let alone a Cup car. He knows his chances of winning the race Sunday are slim. His primary goals are to enjoy the experience, learn, but, maybe more importantly, not ruin a championship driver’s day.
“I want to do the best job I can for Nurtec and Rick Ware,” Eversley said. “I don’t want to cause Martin Truex Jr. to get a DNF because I’m an idiot and trying to be a Cup driver.”
One thing working in his favor, outside of his overall track knowledge, is he has Andy Lally, a veteran road-course racer such as himself, to help him out.
Lally offered Eversley his notes on how to race at Road America in a stock car. While the notes are about how to drive an Xfinity car at Road America, Eversley believes there is still valuable information he can draw from.
In addition, Lally will be one of his spotters.
“Having my big brother, my best friend, as a coach, a spotter who is the hands-down best road-course ringer the last couple years is, I think, a huge positive for me,” Eversley said.
Having a don’t-crash mentality is something he has familiarity with.
When he was about 19 or 20 years old, he competed in his first race. It was through a friend he met in an AOL chat room. Chris Nelson and his dad, Bob, had the money to buy the car, a Formula Mazda, but not enough to race it.
So, they decided to give Eversley the shot with one stipulation: Don’t crash the car.
“It’s like, ‘I know (expletive),’” Eversley said with a laugh.
But on a serious note, Eversley knew the stakes, especially as someone who was pinching pennies, saving money to one day hopefully get the chance to be a race car driver on a more regular or permanent basis.
“I finished dead last. I was terrified. I sucked,” Eversley said. “I remember getting out of the car saying, ‘I can’t wait to do that again.’”
Stock car racing has been on Eversley’s bucket list for one simple reason.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that the best drivers in the world are the ones that do anything and everything they can get in,” he said. “My heroes were Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt and guys like that. They would get in anything and they’d be fast. I thought that was the coolest thing as a driver, to be fast in anything.
“So I’ve tried to jump into anything whether it’s a prototype, a GT car. I got to do Robby Gordon’s Stadium Trucks.”
And throughout his racing career, Eversley has been fast.
One of his crowning achievements was in 2018, the inaugural season of the Pirelli World Challenge TCR class. Eversley won five races to clinch the championship.
To think about those days as a teenager sweeping floors at the auto shop, turning wrenches and so forth is a humbling moment for Eversley. He just wanted to race someday.
He didn’t think it’d turn into a career, a successful one at that. But it’s also allowed him to expand as a person.
In 2011, competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, he had a choice to run one of three cars. One of those featured the Children’s Tumor Foundation, or CTF. At the time, given the logo painted on the car, he thought it was supporting autism.
Either way, Eversley got in the car, finishing 20th overall and fourth in the GT class.
Afterward, he did research on the cause on the car and learned a ton.
“It’s a terrible disease that affects 1 in 3,000 kids that are being born today,” he said. “There’s no cure yet, but there have been some amazing breakthroughs the last couple of years.”
He added, “I was like, ‘If I don’t know this, how does anybody else?’ So I started putting them on my race car for free.”
Since then, he’s supported the cause any way he could and raise money as well. He said he’s raised more than $250,000 for CTF either through his racing career or with an undie run fundraiser held every February.
He also wears a bracelet that says, “curenfwithjack.com.” In his social media posts, he uses #endnf.
“Raising money for them through my racing efforts is one my greatest wins of my career,” Eversley said.