CONCORD, N.C. – Greg Ives will rely on his short track ties to help Alex Bowman run his best race at Bristol Motor Speedway this Sunday as the duo take on the .533-mile dirt-covered track for the first time in the Cup Series.
“It’s going to be more similar to short track racing, local short track racing where you don't have the fancy pit boxes,” said Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 team. “You're more or less going back to your grassroots. And fortunately for Alex, and for myself, we have a lot of roots that run down deep into that short track mentality.”
Normally, Ives and the No. 48 team use on-track data to make decisions on when to pit, what lane is preferred and how to improve the car to put themselves in the best position possible. But the dirt race at Bristol presents a new set of challenges, including no prior data on how the race will play out.
“The computers may not come into play as often and, if so, holding up to that environment might be a little different,” Ives said. “But yeah, pulling back to going to the racetrack having fun and not relying solely on engineering or computers or simulation, but what the driver can give you back for feedback and what you can apply and change.”
In preparation for the unknowns that the dirt race at Bristol presents, Bowman and Ives have spent time using iRacing and racing simulators to understand how the track wears as the cars run laps.
“Yeah, iRacing is a huge tool,” Ives explained. “For us as engineers and crew chiefs, to understand what we may be challenged with, we try little setup changes here and there. It doesn't technically correlate 100%, but it does give you a general idea of what changes may do.
“Just trying to understand the line and the track conditions as you change the track surface from zero to 100%, and how it may change over the course of a whole race. Two hundred and fifty laps is going to be a long time around Bristol and the track is going to change more than ever.”
As the team approaches Sunday’s race, the excitement for the event from all the team members grows and Ives expects a solid run for the No. 48 team.
“For me, it's a variety, it's something different,” Ives said. “I think that's what is going to really pique interest and maybe bring in some new viewers.”
Be sure to tune in this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX to see the Hendrick Motorsports drivers rip around Bristol.