Story By: ROBERT MARLOW / CLASSIC RACING TIMES – LONG POND, PA – Ray Evernham, the Daytona 500-winning crew chief and NASCAR Hall of Fame member, came up four miles per hour short of his stated goal of a 200-mph top speed in his 1936 “Ghost” Modified at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, but came away highly satisfied with having gotten oh-so-close.
As part of the Classic Racing Times’ 2019 Vintage Celebration at Pocono, taking place in conjunction with of the NTT Indycar Series ABC Supply 500 weekend, Evernham took to the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” following final Indycar practice Saturday afternoon and got everyone’s attention immediately.
On his first lap, entering turn three to set up for the top speed run on Pocono’s 3700-foot main straightaway, the car executed a snap spin, which Evernham later attributed to changes he and his crew made to the car overnight. While the car mowed some infield grass during the spin, there was no contact and after a brief stop on the pit road to check for damage, Evernham returned to the track and went for the record.
Wasting no time, Evernham blasted the car, powered by an 850-horsepower fuel-injected 410-cubic-inch aluminum Chevrolet V8, past the massive Pocono grandstand and, he hoped, into the record books.
In-car telemetry would tell the tale, and upon returning to the pits, Evernham brought the car to victory lane where he was all smiles – but with the slightly disappointing news that the top speed was 196 miles per hours, a mere four miles per hour short of his stated goal.
Although an accomplished racing driver himself, with affable self-deprecation Evernham joked that to get the elusive extra four miles per hour “I might have to put one of my friends in the car,” referring to any one of the many NASCAR Cup and Indycar drivers with whom Evernham has close ties.
In between practice runs on Friday and the Saturday top speed run, Evernham and his crew made several changes to the car, not the least of which was fabricating and installing a new hood scoop to alleviate an aerodynamic issue that was starving the engine for air at high speeds. The car’s rear wing, mounted at the rear of the roof, was also trimmed out for greater speed, and “we may have gone too far,” Evernham said, adding that the car was loose which contributed to the first-lap dramatics.
Asked whether the run was a one-and-done bucket list item or would he would return to try to reach the magic 200-mph mark, Evernham did not hesitate to say that he would love to try again. “If Gary (Mondschein, organizer of the Vintage Celebration) invites us, we’ll definitely come back.”
Evernham, a New Jersey native, built the “Ghost” as a realization of what he describe as “my dream Modified from when I was a kid.” The car marries a classic oval-track stock car body shape – in this instance, a 1936 Chevy sedan that Evernham rescued from a junkyard – to a purpose-built modern racing chassis, without regard to the specifications of any particular sanctioning organization. The car has since been featured at several auto industry shows and raced to a class win at Pikes Peak in 2018.