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Eversley making a difference at Cupid’s Undie Run to help cure NF

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Although he’s more well known in the racing industry for his day job as an Acura factory driver and driving coach, and his new winter side project as co-creator of the Dinner with Racers podcast, it’s philanthropy that may drive Ryan Eversley most.

Eversley’s February sees him and a number of his other close friends – they call themselves “Team ATL” – strip down to underwear for a good cause: participating in the annual Cupid’s Undie Run, which takes place on Saturday. They run for Team Cure NF with Jack Atlanta.

The nationwide event occurs in several cities and Eversley has worked for the last few years to raise thousands to help cure neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a disease that currently affects 1 in 3000 people and can cause Tumors to grow on any nerve ending in the body.

It actually affects Eversley in a personal way. “I drove the Children’s Tumor Foundation car at Daytona a few years back and realized how bad NF is and was shocked I’d never heard of it,” he said. “I had spinal meningitis as a kid and had to spend a lot of time at Scottish Rite so I get how terrible this is and I always wanted to do something with my racing efforts to help children in need. I met The Burkes and their son Jack at the race track and immediately felt a close bond with them and while I run for ‘Cure NF with Jack’ on paper, I’m raising money for everyone affected by NF.”

This year, Eversley’s raised more than $25,000 for awareness and funding of the disease, which is third highest raised nationwide for this event and first in Atlanta. Over the last four years, Eversley has raised more than $80,000 total.

Even more impressive about the amount raised is that it’s all come from Eversley’s dedicated social media following, which he’s built up over the last few years across several platforms.

“Last year I think it was around $23,000, and now it’s over $25,000, which is unbelievable,” Eversley said. “The one thing I love about Cupid’s Undie Run is that it goes specifically to research and the charity. It’s not going to a person’s salary, a board of directors or marketing agencies – it’s 100 percent going to fund research, medical trials and things like that.”

“It’s such a good feeling. And the craziest thing is that it’s just from social media and my followers and friends and racing family Every now and then I’ll get a donation from a corporation or a company but it’s primarily because of racing.”

Eversley’s racing season in Pirelli World Challenge ended in October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, before he and his podcast colleague Sean Heckman set sail on a 12,000-mile, cross-country odyssey (in a Honda Odyssey, riding on Continental Tires) for the second season of the podcast series.

November provided the first real chance for Eversley to get back to promoting his fundraising efforts. Do it too early in the year, he said, and things get lost in the shuffle. That provides roughly a three-month buildup to create awareness and to perform the fundraising.

Even though Eversley posts daily across the multiple platforms, the nature of social media is such that you miss posts unless you’re tracking everything. That’s in large part why Eversley posts as much as he does.

“Just like in PR you don’t want to send out two releases at the same time to muddle the messages, which is why I think I started mid-November, and then pushed harder around the holidays,” Eversley explained. “I’m it sure it might get annoying for some on social media because of different platforms but the results speak for themselves.”

“It never ceases to amaze me when you’ll see someone donate with like a week to go, and they say, ‘I just didn’t see it!’ That’s how it works. But then you get a $500 donation and hear, ‘I would have done it earlier, but didn’t see it and it keeps me posting until I hit my goal.”

Of course, we’ve hit on the fundraising part. But the underwear part provides the lighter and more humorous angle to this fundraising story.

There’s several questions you have to ask yourself upon doing this. Namely, how are you going to stay warm, and what do you for storage? Eversley attempted to answer both.

“The first year we did this, it was like 26 degrees and windy all day!” Eversley laughed. “We all showed up at the old location and had to park far away. And the wind was brutal..”

“But the second year wasn’t that bad. It is a social event and then when you start to go, you get so excited because you know it’s coming, and the adrenaline takes over.

“To be honest, it’s not even the cold thing that gets you. It’s, ‘Hey, I’m standing here in my underwear in front of all these strangers. So what am I gonna open my laptop and be tagged in tomorrow?’”

As for the storage question – cellphone, wallet, and so forth – Eversley had a more simple answer.

“Trial and error!” he said. “In the past we’d say, ‘Let’s put everything in one bag’… but if there’s a bunch of bags, and someone takes the wrong bag everyone’s screwed, it’s happened! Then we got the wristbands with a pocket in it – this is good for credit cards and IDs. You’re holding your phone most of the time but that’s fine because everyone’s taking pictures anyways”

Eversley’s fellow Acura teammate Andy Lally, who competes in one of Michael Shank Racing’s NSX GT3s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, has himself been proactive in fundraising as well with more than $13,000 raised.

The “Team ATL” crew also includes fellow drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Katherine Legge, among others, who generally make the event one of the more fun social gatherings of the year.

In Lally’s case, he was running neck-and-neck with Fran Cone to be second to Eversley for most fundraising in Atlanta. Cone is actually one of the most important figures in the Cupid’s Undie Run, for her family involvement in the event’s creation.

“This whole thing is a very important part of my year,” Eversley explained. “The Cupid’s Undie Run was founded by a few people including Chad Leathers. Chad’s brother Drew passed away with complications of NF in 2015.

“We’re not just doing this to say, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ We’re doing this because there is a serious connection I feel with it. Drew Leathers was my friend. So to have my racing friends and followers join and donate to it, is very gratifying.”

“Fran Cone is Drew Leathers’ mom. Fran raised the second highest amount of money behind me last year. The highest fundraiser gets a ‘golden pair of underwear’ – the gold medal of this if you will – and I pulled her up to give her the medal because I wanted her to know what Drew meant to me.”

“It’s amazing to do and help support, and it’s super serious and empowering.”

Once Eversley gets his proper core temperature back after the run this weekend, he’ll be just under a month out from the start of the new Pirelli World Challenge season in St. Petersburg, March 10-12.

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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.