Ray Evernham: “It ran one race. It dominated that race and was banned by NASCAR.”
Hendrick Motorsports – Chassis No. 2429
The car featured a promotional campaign for Jurassic Park: The Ride. On the hood of the #24 sat a T-Rex decal. The car naturally picked up the nickname. However, that’s not the full story behind the name of the chassis.
Rex Stump was the lead engineer at Hendrick Motorsports at that time. Under his eye, the car was constructed from uncommon thinking of every crew chief and engineer employed in the building.
“It’s urban legend has grown so far outside of itself. The reality of the car, it was really Mr. Hendrick’s idea,” Ray Evernham tells the story.
Rick Hendrick gathered all the crew chiefs at Hendrick Motorsports. He gave them the idea to collaborate on a prototype NASCAR race car.
Rick Hendrick said, “You guys get together and give Rex Stump all of your ideas about building the ultimate race car.”
“They went page by page by the rulebook. We used to take it with us and test. Because it was built in the proper way,” Evernham details the build of the machine.
Jeff Gordon was at a test session with his regular car. They pulled out T-Rex and it was .3 tenths off the pace. That was disappointing. But, Gordon stated that something was there so Ray went to work.
“Let me play with it. Let’s put a crazy setup in it. I talked to Rex about my idea. For that time, it was really unheard of to put softer front springs and stiffer rear springs, a bigger sway bar and things like that in it.”
“We did those changes. Brian Whitesell and I are standing on top of the truck. Jeff goes out and he goes around. I click my stopwatch and it looked like a tenth faster.”
To Ray’s surprise, he immediately received pats to the back. Why? Ray wasn’t looking at the full time on the stop watch. It was a full second and a tenth faster.
“I was just looking at the tenths. I just wasn’t reading the second part.”
Jeff Gordon pulled back into the garage, “What was that?”
Gordon went on to take the green flag in the 1997 All-Star event presenting the debut of T-Rex. The #24 started 19th of 20 cars. Yet, he was running laps that were near a second faster than the entire field. Jeff Gordon took it to victory lane and pocketed the $207,500 payday.
“It ran one race. It dominated that race and was banned by NASCAR.”
NASCAR banned T-Rex
Ray Evernham got the stern message after posing for photos in victory lane, “Mr. France wants to see you.”
“I thought he wanted to congratulate me. Bill and I are friends.”
“He says, ‘Sit down. You need to pick up that phone right there. Call your boss and tell him that car’s illegal.”
“I was like, ‘What? No. No. It passed inspection. No sir. We built that car by the rules. It’s 100% legal by the rulebook.’ ”
He said, ‘It won’t be tomorrow.’ ”
Ray Evernham had to make a few changes to the car per the change to the NASCAR rulebook. They tried to run it again. It was never the same.
The machine is now in display in the Hendrick Motorsports museum, in Charlotte, N.C., which is open to the public.
Ray Evernham tells the true story of the T-Rex chassis
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