CONCORD, N.C. – Greg Ives and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have a unique relationship.
Certainly, the No. 88 team crew chief and the driver have a bond as they work together week after week, but it began long before Ives climbed atop Earnhardt’s pit box.
On the precipice of their final race together, Ives shared a few words on his working relationship with Earnahrdt – which has blossomed into a friendship.
"Throughout the years, my relationship to Dale has gone through many phases," Ives said. "In his early years I was a fan, watching him win races and championships in the iconic AC Delco paint scheme. It was so cool that we had the privilege to run a throwback to that scheme at Darlington this year. In 2004 when I started at Hendrick Motorsports, he was a competitor that we had to go out there and race each weekend, especially at the superspeedway races where he was so strong.
"When he made the move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, we began a pretty neat relationship. Dale and I are pretty calm and quiet in our personal environment, but when it comes to competition, we are extremely focused and competitive. The fantasy football league was where we had our first encounter of determination. Through the unique battle, we had formed a bond that we can still talk about today.
"Moving to JR Motorsports in 2013, Dale became my boss as I tried to help lead his company to winning races and eventually a championship. Every time Dale came to my office, he asked what he could do for me to help the teams get better - never to tell me how to do my job. There are plenty of Monday morning crew chiefs, but he was never one of them.
"Then in 2015, I got the call to be his crew chief. It was an honor to accept the challenge because I knew we could have quick success with the relationships we had already established. That held true for the 2015 season and 2016 was going to be even better. Putting more focus on winning and being perfect - we were so close in 2015, so why not? When Dale got hurt in 2016, I took a lot of the responsibility on myself. We had to work through the tough times together, had to confide in each other, and ultimately developed our best relationship – our friendship."