On July 13, 1989, a motorcycle accident significantly changed Evan’s life. He was thrown from the bike when he hit an unmarked ditch at a construction project near his home. He was paralyzed from the chest down. "When the doctors told me my spinal cord had been severed, it was my worst nightmare come true," said Evan. "But I decided then and there, I was not going to give up."
When the accident occurred, Evan had a large lead in the Class 6 SCORE points standings, but by the time of the final race – the Baja 1000 – he needed to at least start the race to ensure himself the championship. Hand controls were installed in his race vehicle, and three days after being released from the hospital, Evan was driven to Ensenada and helped into the driver’s seat by his mother, Dolly. He only needed to drive the truck 40 miles down the pavement to El Alamo, but instead drove 32 additional miles before stopping and turning the car over to his co-driver, Brian Stewart. “Brian drove the rest of the way, and we won the championship for my dad’s team,” Evan said. Evan earned the SCORE Off-Roadsman of the Year Award and was named the SCORE High Desert Racing Association Person of the Year for his incredible comeback.
Evan spent the next year in rehabilitation, while also working tirelessly to build his first race vehicle equipped with hand controls out of a Chevy Blazer that his mother had been using for trips to the grocery store.
Evan continued to race off-road before finding his niche in short course racing, where he went on to become one of the winningest drivers in short course history.
1996 was a banner year for Evan. He raced his way to the SODA Series World Championship in Class 13, was the SODA Heavy Metal Challenge Winner at Bark River SODA Series, was named the SODA Series Driver of the Year -- in his rookie season -- and set a SODA Series record for wins in a season, winning 7 of 8 races, including 6 races in a row. He also won the SODA Winter Series Championship at Glen Helen Raceway with 3 wins in 4 races.
That same year, Evan was named to the prestigious All-American team by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, the first off-road short-course driver ever named to the team. He joined the Chevy Thunder Manufacturer Team earning 10 wins and became a spokesperson for the GM Mobility Program.
Evan teamed with the GM Mobility Program to build a covered viewing platform at Bark River International Raceway for handicapped patrons, which is still in use to this day. With help from sponsor Chevrolet, Evan also organized the construction of a handicapped spectator terrace at Crandon International Raceway.
“Evan has fought some of life’s most powerful setbacks to rise up and become one of the fiercest drivers we have ever enjoyed watching at the Big House. He did it in a way that inspired all of us, especially the young fans that always watched him work on his equipment despite physical challenges,” said ORMHOF Class of 2017 inductee and Crandon International Raceway patriarch Cliff Flannery.
During his professional off-road career of more than 20 years, Evan has 57 wins and 6 championships in the United States, and 26 wins and 8 championships in Baja. This year he joins his father, Walker Evans, as a member of the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Evan was nominated for the Hall of Fame by Jeff Renick. “I am also in a wheelchair,” Jeff told ORMHOF. “After meeting Evan in 1991 he inspired me to give off-road racing a try myself. I never got to Evan’s level, but I’m very glad to have given it a shot. Evan would be an ideal inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame!”
Learn more about ORMHOF inductee Evan Evans in this Conversations with Big Rich podcast:
We can’t always plan our lives... An accident near the start of his career put Evan Evans in a wheelchair. But that didn’t slow him down; Evan went on to win 57 times and six Championships! Congratulations to Evan Evans, a 2023 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.
5:40 – when we stayed in Ensenada as a kid, I would use stickers like money
7:50 – it was John Nelson who gave me my shot at racing
12:31 – “you driving this pre-runner Datsun, which isn’t even a real race truck, is like you winning overall”
20:15 – I went through rehab in four months…two days later I was in the race truck at the Baja 1000 starting line
26:34 – I needed a hell of a brake system to get enough power to stop the vehicle with my arms
30:35 – I only had $8K to go back and race a full season
37:33 – at this point, only myself and Dale Earnhardt, Sr had two contracts with Chevrolet as spokespersons and race car drivers
47:07 – all my heroes are in ORMHOF; to be included is a huge honor