Greg Ives will take over as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015
Hendrick Motorsports announced on Wednesday that Greg Ives will be the new crew chief for the No. 88 team next season.
Before you question whether Ives, 34, is ready to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief, consider this:
Ray Evernham was 34 when he laid the foundation for the No. 24 team and driver Jeff Gordon. Within three years, the pair won their first of three championships together.
Under the tutelage of Evernham, Chad Knaus honed his skills from 1993 to 1997. Although he left HMS, he returned in 2002.
At 30, Knaus took control of the No. 48 team that year. He had just one full season of being a crew chief before returning to HMS where he led a relatively unknown Jimmie Johnson to fifth in the point standings in 2002 and to their first title five years later.
In 13 seasons, Knaus has led the No. 48 team to six championships and 67 of Johnson’s 69 Cup wins. And for seven of those seasons – from 2006 to 2012 – Ives was the team engineer for Knaus.
Ives has the perfect combination of a classical education and hands on experience. The Bark River, Mich.-native graduated from Michigan Technological University with a degree in Engineering before he was enlisted by HMS as an engineer.
“Greg was our number one choice,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “This is a talented guy who already has a terrific rapport with Dale Jr. and is a fit with the organization.
“He and Chad had a lot of success together and all of our crew chiefs think the world of him and what he’s accomplished.”
Ask his fellow crew chiefs about Ives’ traits and the responses are similar – “very smart, very hard-working”.
Following the announcement, Steve Letarte tweeted:
Getting up to speed
Regan Smith served as a guinea pig of sorts for Ives to sharpen his leadership skills as his crew chief last season in the Nationwide Series. It was Ives first opportunity in that role with JR Motorsports after moving from HMS.
Smith said Ives’ ability to meld his background as a former racer with his engineering acumen allowed him to relate to the driver in an exceptional manner.
“He eats, breathes and sleeps racing,” Smith told Motorsport.com. “He has a work ethic that is second to none. I personally never heard him say he couldn’t fix something that we were fighting with the car in my year with him. He would ask what the car was doing and if it was the same thing that he heard from 42 other guys on the radio or something that we had fought for an entire weekend, he would go to work and figure out how to make out car do it the least.
“Simply put, he is one of the best engineering minds that I’ve ever worked with, but can relate that to a driver’s perspective very easily at the same time as being able to explain it to somebody who might know nothing about a race car.”
Simply put, he is one of the best engineering minds that I’ve ever worked with, but can relate that to a driver’s perspective very easily at the same time as being able to explain it to somebody who might know nothing about a race car
In just the year-and-a-half that he’s worked at JRM, he’s led teams to five Nationwide Series wins and currently leads the point standings with Chase Elliott.
Despite Ives’ rave review, inevitably the only person he needed to persuade was his current boss – Earnhardt. But Junior didn’t need much convincing. He and Ives hit it off years ago in the Hendrick Honchos fantasy football league – when the crew chief kicked his butt.
But it was his abilities on top of the pit box that really caught Junior’s attention.
“I knew when he was working with Jimmie how talented he was and how he was in a great position to be and groomed into this role,” Earnhardt said. “This is that whole cycle sort of coming to truth. I’ve always admired his understanding of how a car works and his attention to detail is very, very important.”
For Ives, “getting back to the 48/88 show was a big priority of mine”. He arrives at a time when Earnhardt, who is second in the Sprint Cup point standings, might not need a cheerleader type of crew chief as much as he needs someone to help him dial in the car.
Earnhardt acknowledged that he has his “mojo back” and his “confidence is up”. No doubt that’s a credit to Letarte, his current crew chief, who performed what some considered the impossible task of rehabilitating Earnhardt’s self-esteem.
Not only is he the most talented candidate, I believe, for the job it will be the most seamless transition
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With Letarte moving on to NBC Sports next season, it was important that Ives has already earned Earnhardt’s trust. Not only does Earnhardt “respect his talent”, he believes that Ives will be able to maintain the integrity of the team.
“Not only is he the most talented candidate, I believe, for the job it will be the most seamless transition,” Earnhardt said. “He knows the culture of the 48/88 shop. He knows what that shop is about and the mentality there. I don’t know it could go any smoother being that he has that past history and understanding of the building.
“Everyone is really excited about it – not just me – I think everybody at Hendrick is excited to have Greg come back.”