The 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season marks the fifth for crew chief Greg Ives atop the pit box for the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team and the second year calling the shots with Alex Bowman behind the wheel. The pair first worked together in 2016 when Bowman turned heads while driving 10 races for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.
During the 2018 season, Ives led the No. 88 team to a playoff berth with three top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and a prestigious Daytona 500 pole award. With Ives’ leadership, Bowman earned career-best finishes at 18 different venues. The Bark River, Michigan, native helped the driver make his first playoff appearance, and the team ultimately advanced to the Round of 12 after a fourth-place finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course. At the conclusion of the season, the No. 88 team finished 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, representing a solid foundation for 2019.
Growing up in Michigan, Ives worked at racetracks with his father and older brother and spent eight years behind the wheel before finding his true calling under the hood. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan Tech, Ives’ résumé ended up in the hands of Brian Whitesell, now Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of operations, who invited the aspiring engineer to meet at Daytona International Speedway during the 2004 Daytona 500 race weekend. To make the appointment, the self-described “grease monkey” drove from Michigan to Florida, sleeping in his car in the process, and subsequently landed a formal interview a few weeks later. He joined the No. 24 team of four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon as a shop mechanic, putting in extra hours on the setup plate and volunteering at the track whenever the team was within driving distance.
On the same day Ives found out he would be a first-time father, he was offered a traveling position as the race engineer for the No. 48 team led by crew chief Chad Knaus. His arrival coincided with driver Jimmie Johnson’s historic run of five consecutive Cup championships. In seven years with the No. 48 team (2006-2012), Ives took part in 42 wins, 113 top-five finishes and 21 pole positions.
In November 2012, Ives transitioned to JR Motorsports, the NASCAR Xfinity Series team owned by Earnhardt and affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports, as crew chief for driver Regan Smith. The duo earned two victories, eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10s on their way to a third-place finish in the 2013 Xfinity Series standings.
Prior to the 2014 season, Ives was named crew chief for Chase Elliott. That year, he guided the rookie driver to three victories, two pole positions, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s en route to winning JR Motorsports’ first Xfinity Series championship. Elliott became the youngest champion in series history and the first NASCAR driver ever to win a national series title and rookie of the year in the same season.
Following his historic run in the Xfinity Series, Ives returned to Hendrick Motorsports – this time as crew chief for Earnhardt, the two-time Daytona 500 winner and NASCAR’s perennial most popular driver. In 2015, Ives earned his first Cup victory as a crew chief on May 3 at Talladega Superspeedway. That season, he led Earnhardt to three wins and helped the driver tie his personal records for top-five finishes (16) and top-10s (22).
In his first Cup season, Ives received the 2015 MOOG Problem Solver of the Year award, which is presented to the crew chief who posts the best overall performance, most consistently demonstrates problem-solving excellence and wins the most Problem Solver of the Race awards. The weekly awards recognize the crew chief whose car posts the largest increase in average lap speed from the first half to the second half of the race while finishing on the lead lap. Ives earned the distinction five times.
In 2016, Ives guided the No. 88 team through a season of highs and lows as Earnhardt, who was in solid position to make his sixth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series playoff appearance, missed the final 18 races while recovering from a concussion. Gordon (eight races) and young talent Bowman (10 races) filled in, with Bowman earning the pole and nearly winning at ISM Raceway after leading 194 laps. All totaled, the No. 88 team earned 11 top-10 finishes with three different drivers in 2016 under Ives’ leadership.
2017 marked the final season of Earnhardt’s Cup Series career. The team captured one top-five finish, eight top-10s and 16 top-15s along with two pole positions (Daytona and Talladega). On July 20, it was announced that Ives would again be paired with the impressive Bowman – this time on a permanent basis – starting with the 2018 season.
When Ives isn’t at the racetrack, he enjoys spending time with his wife Jessica and three children. His hobbies include working on classic cars and maintaining the property around his home in Davidson, North Carolina.