On the Track and in Life, Evan Evans Fears No Challenge
After high school, I worked at a construction job for three days," Evan Evans recently told OR. "Three days of digging ditches and loading scraps into a dumpster, and I decided that working as a racer might be a better way to go. I had to start from the bottom, though. I couldn't work for my dad. It's not that we're so different, it's that we're too much alike."
Rather than butt heads with racer and father Walker Evans, Evan learned the ropes at other teams' shops. The trail began with a two-year stay working for Kim Klepper, who built the Charlotte Corral Class 8 Ford that Ivan Stewart drove before Toyota hired the Ironman. Larry Minor was Evan's next boss, and Evan was mentored by Jon Nelson (later of Nelson & Nelson racing fame) while working for Minor. "As a kid, you're impatient. You want everything now," says Evan. "I wanted to drive and build trucks, and my dad wanted me to sweep the shop floor. I wasn't getting where I wanted to be as fast as I wanted to get there. I thought I knew everything. Later, I found out that Dad knew everything all along. My biggest thrill today is that my dad is my biggest moral supporter."
Although the story of the father-and-son drama is not a rarity, life changed dramatically for both Walker and Evan on a fateful day in 1989. Evan mounted his dirt bike and took off through a familiar area. Unbeknownst to Evan, a construction company had dug a trench and left no markers or barriers around the hazard. Evan hit the unexpected ditch hard and woke up in the hospital. "I woke up and saw my dad looking down at me. He had a tear in his eye when he said, 'Son, it doesn't look good. It looks like you might be paralyzed.'" Sometimes, adversity builds character. This time, adversity revealed what was already inside. Evan promptly replied, "We can put hand controls on the truck, can't we?" That November, Evan successfully raced the Baja 1000 in his Class 6 truck, now fit with hand controls. "I never went through the self-pity stage after my accident -- I just didn't have time to sit around and say, 'poor Evan.'"
Today, Evan Evans is in the thick of the CORR Pro-2 Championship wars and is an inspiration to others who have been set back by injuries or disabilities. Still, he cautions, "I'm good at this because I'm passionate about it, not because I'm in a wheelchair. When people with disabilities ask me what they should do, I don't advise them getting into racing. Instead, I tell them to find something they're passionate about, and go after that."
Evan still loves desert racing, but finds the short courses of CORR are better for him and for the fans. "I don't want to seem negative about desert racing, but there's no money in it. Just the same, there's something about running wide open across the desert that's hard to explain. CORR is off-road racing's best-kept secret. The fans can see 98 percent of the race and go get a hot dog and a beer and sit with their families. The fans don't have to drive to remote places, then wait for hours to see their favorite racers go by. For me, it means that the fans can see my truck race almost the whole time, which makes it much easier for me to attract sponsors. Another advantage is that if I need it, help is there immediately at the CORR races. That makes my family feel more at ease when I'm out there racing."
Spend some time with Evan Evans and you'll discover a racer who's come to terms with his life and is comfortable talking about it. "You can ask me anything," he invites. As the afternoon waned during our photo shoot, several locals motored over to the dirt area where we were busy taking action and portrait photos. The aroma of two-stroke dirt bike exhaust wafted on the breeze, accompanied by the ring-ding-ding of aftermarket expansion chambers. "That's music to my ears," Evan exclaimed without a hint of bitterness.
There's still a place where the friendliness fades, though. Line up against Evan on a CORR Pro-2 starting grid, and the kid gloves are off. "Go ahead and try to mess with me on the race track. I'll line up against anyone, anywhere." We've been warned.