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CONCORD, N.C. – When Alex Bowman was officially announced as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet beginning in 2018, the driver said it felt like “the weight’s kind of lifted off my shoulders.”

No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives knew exactly how he felt.

“It was good to kind of just put that to rest,” he said. “You just want to tell people because you’re excited about the opportunity, not only for Alex but also to continue on with the No. 88 car and continue to try to work towards the success that we had (last season with Bowman as a fill-in driver) at Phoenix and a couple other tracks.

“You can kind of have a sigh of relief and then get back focused on the task we have at hand in 2017.”

That experience – and success – Ives, Bowman and the No. 88 team had together while the driver served as a substitute during Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recovery from a concussion will only benefit the group as Bowman takes over as the full-time driver next year.

“It’s going to help a ton,” Ives said. “Just being able to understand what we need to continue to work on and that’s not even race car stuff, that’s things that he may need to clean up from his side of things, things I may need to clean up on my side of things, so that we can continue to keep the relationship meshing properly.”

“Greg is extremely smart, probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever even talked to."

Alex Bowman on No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives

In 10 races in 2016, Bowman earned three top-10 finishes and a pole position behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevy.

Throughout the process, Bowman said he built “a great relationship” with the entire No. 88 team, especially his crew chief. The driver noted that being able to continue working with Ives is a major factor in his excitement for 2018.

“Greg is extremely smart, probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever even talked to, so I’m really looking forward to that,” Bowman said. “I think we communicated very well and worked well together.”

Ives compared his 10-race stint with Bowman in 2016 to his run as Chase Elliott’s crew chief in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Ives and Elliott worked together during the 2014 campaign, ultimately winning JR Motorsports’ first XFINITY Series championship, making Elliott the youngest champion in series history.

“The approach with Alex was probably similar to what I took with Chase when Chase and I were together in the beginning,” Ives said. “Just being able to understand that they were like sponges and wanted to learn and wanted to know and wanted to just be told what to do. If they had a bad habit, they want it broken. They want to just be like a young puppy and learn how to do it the right way.”

The communication between Ives and Bowman improved as the 2016 season progressed, and Bowman only expects that to get even better in 2018. He joked that he’s even beginning to master the crew chief’s “riddles” he relays over the radio.

“He’s always thinking about every aspect of everything, so when he comes across the radio, he’s thinking about people listening and what details he wants to relay and what details he doesn’t want people to know,” the driver said.

“In a race, a lot of times you don’t want to give away what you’re doing,” Ives explained. “All you’re trying to do is feed the driver information. You don’t want to give away the strategy.”

That’s why Bowman feels his experience with the No. 88 team last season is such a benefit.

“It’s not like starting with a new team going into 2018,” the driver said. “We’ve all worked together and not much is changing. I’m just excited to get back in the car and go to Daytona and hopefully go win some races and make the playoffs and compete for a championship.”

And he can’t wait to get back to work alongside Ives.

“He’s just so smart,” Bowman continued, “and it’s going to be cool to have that on my side.”