CONCORD, N.C. -- Crew chief Greg Ives is the first to say that inconsistencies are what plagued Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team last season. However, that appears to be a thing of the past.
Bowman earned his first win of the season -- and second career win -- at Auto Club Speedway Sunday after a dominant performance that saw him lead 110 of 200 laps.
On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday, Ives said it was the offseason work that helped create the formula for Bowman's success so far this year. Part of that work wasn't on the track, but with Bowman becoming comfortable with himself and his position as a team leader.
"Maturity plays a lot into somebody’s career. I think understanding who you are and believing in that is another part of it. I think that’s all of what he’s going through," Ives said.
"(He) and I work well together. We’re on each other’s team. I’m a big fan of Alex and he’s a big fan of mine and that might have been different in his past experiences and relationships with teams that he worked for in the past. He alluded (Sunday) he doesn’t question my decisions and I don’t question his. We work on that together.
"I think that’s what has helped make him grow as a leader of a team in his way. I’m not throwing a book at him and saying, 'Here’s the guidelines on how to be the leader of a race team.' He’s able to do it on his own and form (his) own identity."
On the track, Ives said the team worked hard on the little things that can make a huge difference in whether you're a winner or at the back of the pack.
The biggest thing was consistency, something Ives said eluded the team after Bowman won his first career race at Chicagoland Speedway last season.
"We talked a lot over the offseason about that’s the one thing we have to do as a team (is) stay consistent and whether it’s consistently 10th, consistently 12th. We have to come there and consistently get better from our baselines, from our starting point. If we’re all over the place and we’re kind of throwing darts at ... the setups, the restarts, the pit stops, you’re not creating a good foundation and a good base," Ives explained.
Ives added that they have had a balanced and steady car over the last three weeks and said they could have won the DAYTONA 500 if an accident hadn't taken Bowman out of contention. He also admitted his decision to pit Bowman in the final laps at Las Vegas while he was a front runner did not go as planned.
"Yeah, I was hard on myself," Ives said. "But as the leader of a team, (I had to) put that out in front of the guys and say, ‘Hey, here is this momentum that we have. Let’s make sure that we continue to do what we’ve been doing and not let this get us down and continue to make that a driving and motivational factor for us every week.'"
Ives said he hopes this confidence will carry over to this Sunday and not become a distraction as Bowman and the rest of the field head to Phoenix -- his hometown track.
"We haven’t had a great time there and, for whatever reason, the 88 has struggled," Ives said. "We’re going to go back, understand what our fundamentals are, understand what our baselines are … I feel like we have a good baseline to go there."
As for that No. 88 tattoo Bowman alluded to after he won in Fontana, California? Ives doesn't believe he will get it done.
"I hope that was just a bad joke," he said.