"There's a lot of junk out there today. If you want it straight, read Kirby." -- Paul Newman
The Way It Is/ Appreciating Davey Evansby Gordon Kirby
Veteran Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing crewman Davey Evans was murdered in Indianapolis last Saturday, the night before practice started for this year's Indy 500. Evans, 63, was killed by an assailant who ruthlessly attacked him with a steel-toed boot before escaping into the night. The perpetrator and two accomplices were detained by the police the next day and face possible manslaughter charges.
Evans was Carl Haas's longest-serving employee. He first worked on Peter Revson's and Jackie Stewart's Lola Can-Am cars for Haas's team in 1970 and '71 and was one of four men who ran Brian Redman's championship-winning Haas/Hall Formula 5000 Lolas from 1973-'76. He also worked on Haas's 'new era' Can-Am team which won four championships from 1977-'80.
Davey was born in geater London in the town of Sunbury-on-Thames and started his working life as an apprentice mechanic in 1959 when he was fifteen years old at HWM Motors in nearby Walton-on-Thames. He joined Maranello Concessionaires, the UK's Ferrari dealer, a few years later, then moved to Lola Cars. Davey worked on many different Lolas before coming to America with Haas's Can-Am and Formula 5000 cars.
For many years he worked at Lola during the winters building Haas's cars. Evans was an old-school artisan who could construct almost anything. He was not only Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's most experienced crewman, but probably the longest-serving man in the contemporary IndyCar garage area.
"I have a tough time accepting it and I'm sure everyone else feels the same way," Mario Andretti commented. "It's such a waste of a wonderful life. For some meaningless human being to take another life that meant so much is a total travesty. There are very few people that I've known in my life who you could say, 'I don't think this guy had an enemy in the world.' All the years that I've known and worked with him, whether it was with Carl's Can-Am team or through Formula 5000 to all the years with Newman/Haas, Davey was always there with a smile, always kind. What can you say? He was a friend for life."
Mario and wife DeeAnn enjoyed some time with Evans in St Petersburg last month.
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"He was a true racer and was coming down to the twilight of his life where he could start enjoying things," Mario added. "He bought a new house by the lake and a new boat. He was looking forward to his well-deserved retirement in a couple of years and for this to happen is just terrible. It's so unfair--a waste of all wastes."
When Brian Redman won three consecutive Formula 5000 championships with Haas/Hall Racing's Lolas from 1974-'76, Evans was an essential part of the four-man team that prepared and ran the cars.
"He was part of our fantastic Haas/Hall team in 1973, '74, '75 and '76," Redman said. "I haven't seen him in a few years but we talk on the phone every four or five months. He was just the finest kind of quintessential English mechanic. He was a guy who could do anything and he was always cheerful. He was the finest kind of guy you could hope to know and for something like this to happen is just unimaginable. I hope the perpetrator gets his just desserts.
"Davey was a wonderful guy. He was a really good man with a big heart and he just really loved motor racing. He loved everything about it and was the kind of guy who gave his team everything he had."
Roger Bailey worked for Cooper and Ferrari in Formula 1 before coming to the USA with the McLaren Can-Am team. Bailey later worked as IMSA's technical chief before running the old Indy Lights series and then the Indy Pro Series. Today, Bailey is Executive Director of the Firestone Indy Light series.
"Davey's been around to my knowledge for forty-five years," Bailey recalled. "When I was at Cooper, he was at Maranello Concessionaires and we came over from England together. I came over with (Chris) Amon and he came over to Carl Haas's with Jim Chapman and George Woodward. We had some great times together. His nickname for thirty or forty years was always 'Winkles'. I've no idea where it came from.
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"I was talking to him just recently," Bailey added. "And he was telling me as much as he disliked the split he was happy that everyone was now back under the same roof. He said it was the right thing to do and he was looking forward to some great racing. He was excited about having two, very good young drivers in the team and looking forward to racing against everyone again."
Peter Parrott was Rick Mears's chief mechanic at Penske Racing for many years. Parrott worked for a number of British teams before joining Penske in the UK and today runs Speedworks, his own Indianapolis-based racing operation. Parrott and Evans go back almost fifty years.
"I've known Davey since I was eighteen," Parrott said. "He and I come from the same village, Sunbury-on-Thames. We both got into racing and went around together when we were in our teens. We both worked at a company called HWM in Walton-on-Thames. We were fresh out of school. I went there when I was fifteen.
"They had a car called a Facel Vega and Davey worked on those cars for a while. Then they moved the company to a new place out towards Staines and it was called Intercontinental Cars. I went there as well and worked on the Facel Vegas."
Parrott hoped to have Evans visit him for dinner and a beer at home in Indianapolis during the month of May.
"It's been a long time since I visited him in Chicago or he came down to see me here in Indianapolis. He hadn't been through here in years because of the split, and I was hoping that now that they were back here in town for the month I could finally get him out to my place and we could sit down and enjoy a bit of time together. Then I got a call that he'd been killed. I couldn't believe it.
"This is a tragedy," Parrott added. "For his life to end like this, it just doesn't seem right. He was a great person. He was a nice guy. He always had a laugh. I'll always remember him for his laugh. He would always help everybody. I'm sure he will be sadly missed by the team because he would help anybody at anytime. You remember him the way he was which was laughing and good-natured and always ready to help."
Carl Haas looked upon Evans as a member of his family and struggled this week to make sense of what had happened. "It's tough to find the words," Haas said. "He's been a good friend of mine for--I think he's been with us for forty years. He was a really good guy and a terrific mechanic. Everyone here feels very terrible."
John Littlefield has been with Newman/Haas/Lanigan since 1996 and had the pleasure of working with and learning many things from Evans.
"I had worked in racing and knew something about the history of racing going back into the Can-Am and Formula 5000 days," Littlefield remarked. "But as I learned more about what Davey had done and the people he had worked for and the people he touched throughout racing, and the success he had, it was really unprecedented in a lot of ways.
"One of the things about Davey is that he was a great teacher. Some of the older guys on the team can be a bit gruff with the younger guys but Davey was the guy that no matter how much you screwed up he would stop and take the time to show you what you did wrong and how to do it right, and encourage you to do a better job.
"After a while, you pay attention to a guy like that and watch what they do, and you're amazed all the time because a guy like Davey never stopped. He hardly sat still to talk to you, and that's the kind of guy that's the heartbeat of a team like this. He was the kind of guy who always made you want to be better and all we can try to do in this life is to live-up to what he would have done."
Personally, I had the pleasure of calling Davey Evans a friend for more than thirty years. I met Davey at Riverside in 1973 at the first race I covered as Autosport's American editor. He was working on the Haas/Hall F5000 team and it's as if he was always there over the years in F5000, Can-Am, CART and Champ Car. I covered more than five hundred races where Davey was a part of the scene, working hard but with a smile and a joke, and an interesting or funny story or two to tell. As Peter Parrott said: "You remember him the way he was which was laughing and good-natured and always ready to help."
Like many others, I will miss him terribly. Godspeed Davey, in the world beyond.
Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby
Copyright 2008 ~ All Rights Reserved
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