Ray Evernham goes into detail about the design of T-Rex; The next generation Hendrick Motorsports chassis that Jeff Gordon used to smoke the field
In 1997, Rick Hendrick gathered all the Hendrick Motorpsorts engineers with the plans to put all the bold ideas into a single experimental chassis.
At first, it wasn’t called T-Rex. Sponsorship of the car came from the 1997 Jurassic Park film. With the Dinosaur on the hood, the car was nicknamed T-Rex.
At first, the car didn’t work. Until a test session at Charlotte where Ray Everham accidentally discovered sealing the front bumper to the race track for more aerodynamic downforce.
The car entered the 1997 All-Star Race. Jeff Gordon drove it to victory lane and collected $1,000,000.
After that race, NASCAR banned the car. The rule book was modified, specifically to exclude the T-Rex Chassis.
“There’s like a statute of limitations, I don’t think they can fine me. I hope they don’t kick me back out of the Hall of Fame,” Ray Evernham stated via the Dale Jr Download.
Ray Evernham brought a change to NASCAR engineering
Evernham detailed, “The things we worked on were basic stuff. I did bring some short track stuff. But, the whole light-low-left, unsprung weight and combining that with aerodynamics.”
“Actually, rotating mass. We working on lightening up our driveline components. We worked really hard on shock absorbers. Through my years at Penske, I helped develop the shock absorber with Jeff Ryan.”
“I looked at these Cup cars, they were built like indestructible. We started building things a little bit lighter and paying attention to unsprung weight.”
“And taking advantage of the the aerodynamic stuff. Now, sometimes I took advantage for some of the things that were a little bit outside, like the hub at Charlotte that night was not titanium. That cost me a good bit of money.”
“We’d show up with an aluminum driveshaft, hollow axles, lighter gears and all kinds of stuff.”
What was new about the T-Rex car?
Rick Hendrick gathered all his crew chiefs over a sandwich break. He then asked them all to throw out ideas for a next generation racecar.
Evernham explained, “We raised the floor pan and dropped the frame rails to get underbody aerodynamics. We made the chassis stiffer and moved the shocks outside the frame rails.”
“It was a cool car! Low center of gravity and all these things.”
Getting the new chassis to work: By accident
“Took it to the race track and could not get it to work. Everybody took it. #5 car took it, we took it, Schrader took it with the #25.”
“One day, we had it with us at Charlotte. 3 in the afternoon, you might as well run your rental car around there. Because the track’s so slick you’re not going to learn anything.”
“Jeff makes a few laps. It’s about a half second off of ‘Blacker’ [HMS Chassis No. 2411]. I said, ‘Lets try something crazy.’ “
“At that time, we ran a 1200 on the left front, a 1900 on the right front, a 400 on the right rear and 350 on the left rear.”
“I said, ‘Put a pair of 1400’s in that thing. Give me the biggest sway bar you got.’ Which is like an inch and 3/8ths. ‘And jam a pair of 450’s in the back of that thing.’ “
“Everybody’s looking at me like, ‘Don’t get him hurt. He’s going to hit the wall with that setup.’ “
“I told Jeff, ‘Be careful for a lap or two because I have no idea what this thing’s going to do.’ “
“He goes by, I click my stop watch. It was a second faster.”
“Jeff comes in like, ‘What was that?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’ “
“What we know now is that we dropped the front and got that underbody aerodynamic deal to work.”
T-Rex car banned from NASCAR
The team brought the car to The Winston at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gordon qualified the car but overshot pit lane and would be starting in the back for the race as a result.
Gordon drove through the field and pocketed the $1,000,000.
“The car’s going through inspection. And they said, ‘Mr. France wants to see you.’ “
“What I miss most about the sport is my conversations with Bill France. I thought Bill was just going to offer me a beer and we were going to sit and talk about the race.”
“I go in the hauler.
Bill France: “You need to pick up that phone right there. Call your boss and tell him that car’s illegal.”
Ray Everham: ‘What? No. It passed inspection. It’s good. It fits all of the rules and it’s legal.’ “
Bill France: “It won’t be tomorrow.”
“They rewrote a ton of rules. We tried to fix the car with the new rules. But, it never really ran the same. By that time, everybody caught up to us anyway.”
The car remains on display at the Hendrick Motorsports Museum.