2008 NASCAR Fantasy Draft Kit: Gillett Evernham Motorsports

An in-depth look at Gillett Evernham Motorsports and how their drivers might work on your fantasy NASCAR team for 2008.

2007: What Happened

After a breakthrough 2006, Evernham Motorsports tumbled out of the Chase, went winless and didn’t dust itself off until it was too late. Top driver Kasey Kahne didn’t win a race, scored his first top 5 in August and had only 8 top 10’s all season. He was usually fast on Fridays, but would sink like a mob-hit victim in concrete shoes on Sundays.

The season began on a good note. Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler both scored top 10’s at Daytona. After missing the 2006 Daytona 500 Scott Riggs, by virtue of his top 35 owner points position made the race and finished 37th. Restrictor plate races had been a hole in the team in past seasons, but the results marked progress. Surprisingly the problems began the following week on an intermediate track and perpetuated for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile Elliott Sadler avoided trouble but with poor handling cars on a weekly basis, he was merely turning laps. He hovered around the top 20 all year.

2007: What Went Well

Evernham was able to at least solve some of the issues on the #9 car and by late summer Kahne was again running in the top ten. His best effort came at Bristol when he dominated. Winning the pole, leading 305 laps and finishing 2nd to Carl Edwards. Of his 8 top ten finishes, 6 came in the final 12 races, including four on intermediate tracks.

Since his rookie year, Kahne has also been one of the best qualifiers in Cup. That continued in 2007 when he scored two poles and had an average start of 14.3.

Following a recent trend in NASCAR Evernham brought George Gillett on as an investor. With the new capital, Evernham pledged to return to the racing aspects of the business. It’s a long term solution that one hand puts Evernham in a position where he is most effective-in the shop. On the other hand, Evernham’s entire business philosophy was to build the company so that it wouldn’t be so reliant on one or two individuals. Additional revenue is also on its way in the form of new sponsorship for 2008. Budweiser and Best Buy will cover Kahne and Sadler’s respective cars.

2007: What Went Wrong

How much time do you have? The team went winless, no driver made the Chase, all three cars combined to lead a meager 336 laps, Scott Riggs struggled to qualify, all three teams were penalized for cheating at Daytona.

Kahne and Riggs began the year with resounding bangs. The problem was that the bangs came from crashes, blown engines and banging their heads on the wall in frustration. By race #5 Riggs had dropped from the safety zone of the top 35 and Kahne sat in 35th. Kahne eventually clawed his way back to respectability, but Riggs spent the rest of the season chasing the ground they had gained in 2006. The result was Riggs walking away from the team for a ride at Haas CNC, while Evernham hired open wheel driver Patrick Carpentier to fill the #10 car’s seat.

Elliott Sadler had a forgettable season as well. His 25th place finish and measly two top tens was his worst effort since 2000. He did have a great car at Bristol until a flat tire spoiled his fun. Team director Josh Browne was let go after the season, marking a fresh start for 2008.

Midway through the season Evernham admitted he allowed the team to go in the wrong direction for too long. He immediately regained more control of the daily racing operations and the results came quickly. He also conceded his relationship with development driver Erin Crocker may have stolen his attention from the Cup program.

2008 Outlook

Which way will GEM go in ’08? Given that it’s an even year, Kasey Kahne figures to have a nice season. In ’04 and ’06 Kahne averaged 12.5 top 5’s and 16.5 top 10’s. In ’05 and ’07 his averages were 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s. Given the small sample size it says two things. One, it’s probably not a very reliable predictor, but also that Evernham has typically been slow to adapt to changes. 2005 was the introduction of the new aero-package and 2007 was the CoT. 2008 is another year of change with the CoT going full time plus Dodge’s introduction of a new engine midseason. That means Kahne sustaining success is no sure thing. He is still growing as a driver, but his wheelhouse for success stems from intermediate tracks. This program is more reliant on equipment than any other piece of the NASCAR schedule. That means his success is more closely tied to GEM than Sadler’s or Carpentier’s might be. His best speedway tracks are Atlanta, Michigan, and Lowe’s, but he is also a front runner at Bristol, Darlington and especially Richmond. Obviously a lot rests on the speedway program, but Kahne should win at least one race and challenge for a Chase spot.

Sadler is an excellent plate racer at both Talladega and Daytona. Other strong tracks include Bristol, Texas, Dover and Lowe’s. He’s also an underrated road racer. Wins aren’t quite in his grasp, but he has proven top tens are realistic. In 18 career starts in serpentine tracks he has 5 top tens.

Improving 13 spots in the points is a lofty goal, especially coming off a down year for the team. Sadler is a good enough driver that if GEM hits the setup with the CoT, he could win a race this year. That would be a welcome sight. His last win came at the fall Fontana race in 2004.

For Carpentier, 2008 will be strictly a foundation building exercise. He will have to qualify on speed for the first 5 races. Even if he does pull that off, accumulating enough points to crack the top 35 is a major challenge. Road courses are a no-brainer, but beyond that the season will be a struggle.

2007 NASCAR Season Race #9 (Kahne) #10 (Riggs) #19 (Sadler)
Daytona 500 7th 37th 6th
Auto Club 500 38th 41st 24th
UAW-Diamler Chrysler 400 35th 23rd 14th
Kobalt Tools 500 39th 43rd 18th
Food City 500 19th 31st 27th
Goody’s Cool Orange 500 25th 8th 24th
Samsung 500 20th 27th 17th
Subway Fresh Fit 500 31st 42nd 34th
Aaron’s 499 12th 11th 15th
Crown Royal 400 40th 30th 27th
Dodge Avenger 500 20th DNQ 21st
Coca-Cola 600 23rd 20th 36th
Autism Speaks 400 11th 23rd 26th
Pocono 500 22nd 18th 21st
Citizens Bank 400 32nd 33rd 35th
Toyota / Save Mart 350 23rd DNQ 14th
Lenox Industrial Tools 300 25th DNQ 33rd
Pepsi 400 9th 41st 33rd
USG Sheetrock 400 32nd DNQ 33rd
Allstate 400 40th 29th 28th
Pennsylvania 500 27th 24th 32nd
Centurion Boats at the Glen 26th DNQ 17th
3M Peformance 400 31st 36th 32nd
Sharpie 500 2nd 18th 29th
Sharp AQUOS 500 10th DNQ 35th
Chevy Rock-n-Roll 400 8th 40th 27th
Sylvania 300 20th 32nd 38th
Dodge Dealers 400 32nd 34th 17th
LifeLock 400 9th 13th 8th
UAW-Ford 500 16th DNQ 24th
Bank of America 500 8th 36th 41st
Subway 500 15th 16th 40th
Pep Boys Auto 500 9th 29th 14th
Dickies 500 18th 13th 12th
Checker Auto Parts 500 40th DNQ 27th
Ford 400 24th DNQ 38th