Up to Speed with Greg Ives

Hendrick Motorsports have hit their stride with Alex Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives being a part of it. (Photo: Michael Guariglia/The Podium Finish).

Alex Bowman’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet led the way in last month’s 1-2-3-4 finish at Dover Hendrick Motorsports. However, as soon as the checkered flag waved, Bowman thanked his entire pit crew – the entire team – for getting him the victory. Crew chief Greg Ives chimed in and gave credit to the driver for playing a role in the triumph.

Without a doubt, that’s the kind of man Ives is. He will put the team first over himself. Despite being the head honcho of initiating the team’s progression towards success, his compassion for others shines bright.

After years of being the lead engineer for Jimmie Johnson, Ives has held his own as a crew chief. He has worked with the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and led Chase Elliott to an Xfinity Series title in 2014. Now, he is a key piece of Bowman’s rise in the sport’s top level.

This week, I was able to catch a moment with Bowman’s crew chief. Our discussion focused on the team’s strength, his viewpoint on race trophies and the throwback scheme Bowman raced. Again, Ives isn’t a guy about accolades, but how the team progresses over time.

Without further ado, here’s the latest installment of “Up to Speed” with Greg Ives.

Greg Ives chatting with Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon at Kansas in Fall 2019 (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Winner’s Trophy Priorities

Luis Torres: You’ve worked with Jimmie Johnson as the lead engineer. Of course, Dover was one of his strongest tracks. Recently, you won with Alex at Dover. It was said in the telecast, as many times as Johnson won, you’ve never had the “Miles the Monster” trophy.

Greg Ives: [With] some of those trophies, you’re able to get many Miles the Monster trophies. A couple hundred bucks here or there. You’re able to get the Martinsville clock if you want to order it after a win. I feel like some of those trophies are meant to be won if it’s possible as a crew chief.

If I stayed an engineer or felt like my potential has stopped growing, I probably would’ve purchased those things. I had aspirations to be a crew chief. I wanted to put out there, “Hey! In order to get the Miles trophy, you gotta go win it as a crew chief.” On the Cup side or even Xfinity side, one or the other.

Also, the same way with like the Martinsville clock. This year in the spring Martinsville race, I think we were running second or third and we had a loose wheel. I feel like we just got done passing the guy that eventually won the race (Martin Truex, Jr.). Those are memorable trophies that everybody kind of knows and are synonymous with what you get at that racetrack.

It’s not necessarily a different sponsor that wants a different configuration of a trophy. You get the Miles trophy, you get the grandfather clock at Martinsville. No matter what the sponsor is sponsoring the race. Definitely one of those. Daytona is another with the Harley J. Earl Trophy. You definitely want to win those when you possibly can.

The Miles the Monster Trophy is one neat trophy (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images).

One for the Record Books

Torres: How sweet was it to win at Dover and be part of that landmark history with that 1-2-3-4 finish? It’s only been done by Roush in ’05 and DePaolo back in the late 50s.

Ives: You’re not really thinking of that at the time, right? You’re not thinking about history, you’re thinking about winning. And you’re thinking about how you can best place your driver and your team to win the race. That’s exactly what we had to do.

From a pit stop to restarts to everything to close it out. When we crossed the line 1-2–3-4, it’s definitely special. I think we’ve done that before in qualifying for sure, but to have that done in the race, to finish a race like that is definitely special. We were really close to that during the 600.

So that’s just a testament to everybody here at Hendrick Motorsports, putting everything they have into these race cars. Believing that we have a chance to win every week. That belief is what carries the momentum of the team and ultimately the drivers to go out there and perform.

Blistering Fast Stops Isn’t New to Ives’ Squad

Torres: Certainly, the 48 crew has stepped it up, Dover being a prime example where they delivered. I haven’t checked recently, but I think it’s still one of the fastest pit times of the whole season. Obviously, they got the job done.

We’ve talked about Alex stepping up on the occasion. But the crew also totally did that day. How thankful are you for that crew to step up their game?

Ives: You can go to Dover and say, “Hey, the pit crew really got it done.” But if you look over the past, not even just the last couple of years, but over the last seven years as I’ve been a crew chief, our pit crew has been phenomenal.

You’ve had some veteran guys that started out back then and still together today. They play at a high level and they know their position and know what they’re capable of. I’ve tried to change choreography or trying to change somebody’s stance or how they’re doing something.

The more I try to force what I think is right, without letting them display it. Maybe tweaking their details just a little bit, the worse we are. So, I’ve came to a conclusion, let those guys play. Let them perfect their craft.

Teamwork did pay off for Bowman’s crew at Dover International Speedway last month (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images).

Not Forgetting Past Mistakes

Ives: They’ve been playing at a high level for years, not just Dover. They play at a level that I’ve detailed out for them. Hitting five lug nuts, not the gimmicks of hitting four and dropping on four. Doing all this, you know you’re risking loose wheels and stuff like that.

When we did at Martinsville, we only got four tight on the right front. Not that we weren’t hitting five, but we had a loose wheel. So for us, we want to just make sure that we stick to the basics.

Can we go faster than we did at Dover? Absolutely.

Are we going to risk tight wheels and being able to stay on track? Absolutely.

Just trying to stick to the basics and have fast, consistent stops. I know we can play faster, but we’re also going to be more of a risk category. What they’ve been doing on pit road has been top three all year. Probably top three the last few years. So, you know, just continue that hard work and continue them being disciplined in that area.

An Underrated Element

Torres: If there’s one underrated element Alex has, what would it be compared to other drivers?

Ives: Everybody that I’ve worked with in the past have had different personalities. You’ve had Jimmie Johnson different than Dale Jr. Regan Smith different than Chase (Elliott). You know, Alex is probably in the same light.

Just different personalities and different ways they interact with the fans, different ways they interact with the team. Ultimately, I don’t think the talent on the race track is any different. It’s just how they grow as leaders and how they become a part of the team.

I think that’s something that Alex, having a history of being with maybe some subpar teams in the past. Maybe being blamed for the performance on the race track, I’ve never wanted to do that with my drivers. I wanted my drivers to know that I believed in their natural ability. What they’re doing on the racetrack from a driver’s input is exactly what they should be doing. And my job is to fix the race car to match those inputs. I feel like he’s gained and grown comfort in that. That’s the same way with all the drivers I’ve been with.

Bowman at COTA (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish).

Growth Paying Off

Ives: Is there times I feel like he could maybe position himself different on a restart or around a lapped car. Yeah, I’ll guide him in that. Or if he says, ‘Hey man, I’m struggling here. Give me some advice.’ I’ll do it.

As a race car driver, what got him here has nothing to do with my advice. It has everything to do with his talent and his ability to succeed on the race track. That’s one trait that maybe has been overlooked about Alex, his ability to set the wheel of a race car.

Ultimately, we’ve seen that at Dover and Richmond this year. Put in high pressure situations to perform on a restart, he came out really well, outperforming Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano at Richmond. Also, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick at Dover.

That’s something that’s been overlooked on Alex in the past is his ability to close the deal and to perform in high pressure situations. It’s been a lot of fun this year and of course some of the other wins he’s had, California and Chicago. I feel like he’s performed the same way.

Darlington Throwback

Torres: Over a month ago, Alex ran the throwback scheme you drove in late models. From what I understood, it was hush-hush between Alex and the crew. Obviously, we’ve seen the video of your reaction. But, how neat was it to be honored that way?

Bowman blistering off pit road at Darlington (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish).

Ives: Most definitely. I’m a pretty low-key guy. I don’t really like a lot of attention. And I was ultimately really surprised.

I’ve raced late models for sure and I love racing. Loved mechanics and the driving side. But the mechanics and vehicle dynamics behind race cars really was fascinating for me. It ultimately led me to be an engineer and the job I have today. But I did enjoy driving.

When I chose to step away from racing to pursue my career, that was a tough decision for me. Ultimately, probably the right one. To kind of be surprised with the paint scheme that kind of chose me in a way. That probably wouldn’t been my first color choice.

Backstory of the Late Model Colors

Ives: The way it all happened and the way I learned about Jim Pagel and his tragic death at WIR. I was starting my career and just getting going. It’s kind of ironic how Ally’s primary colors really lined up with that paint scheme. Almost fitting for it to be 23 years later, a throwback scheme to me. I wouldn’t say I was totally impressed with it.

Didn’t raise my hand and think that was necessarily something we should do. Never threw out that idea and for Alex to take it upon himself. Then to think of me rather than, like you said, a paint scheme he might’ve had or maybe a driver that he idolized growing up. And to throw it back to me, it was really cool.

Something that I’m gonna cherish for a long time. The pictures, the memories of it, I’m really going to enjoy 10 years from now.

A flat left rear tire dashed Bowman’s shot of a solid result in the Goodyear 400. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish).

Far from Ideal Outcome

Ives: I was rather embarrassed through it all just because it’s just not something I think I deserved.

Rather upset that we’ve only got a 17th place finish out of it. It was a cool experience. I’d have my family be all part of it as well. Like I said, I’m going to enjoy at some point in my life and career.

It was probably something that really made me look at Alex in a different light and say, “Hey, that was pretty cool.” You know, we’re a team, we’re somebody that has each other’s backs and enjoy being around each other.

More than just tight and loose and more than just a fast race car. So, definitely a cool experience and appreciated everybody’s efforts.

A Piece of the 48 Team’s Puzzle

Torres: You definitely have a lot of viewpoints. Comes across as humility where it’s all about the team. You’re just simply a part of the puzzle, not the puzzle.

Ives: Yeah, most definitely. If you talk to any guy on my team, I’ve put as much trust in them to do their jobs. If you believe in that and when you do have success, it’s not because of me. But the guys on this team.

We have a great pit crew. But nothing short on me allowing them to do their job and make mistakes. Being successful is what makes them good and that’s the same with any guy on our team. There’s no right or wrong idea. But [there’s] an idea that we got to go out and execute, and figure out. I’ve always been that way.

Bowman’s pit crew in action at COTA (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish).

Humble Roots

Ives: Every sport I played, I always tried to play the support player as best as I possibly can.

If they need somebody to rebound, I’ll go rebound. Guard the center out, I’ll guard the center. Shoot a three-pointer, I’ll shoot it. But if I make it, I’m not holding up a three walking down the court. I’m running back to get a steal or play defense.

That’s how I’ve always been growing up and my parents instill that in me. My dad was a hard worker and my mom never complained. I didn’t know any different.

When I was on the race track, I respected other drivers and their equipment. I raced them hard and clean.

If I couldn’t beat them by doing that, then what does this matter if I get a win by wrecking somebody?

That’s probably why I didn’t make it as a race car driver. I had too much compassion for other people and the money they spent on race cars. And to really put it on the edge and jeopardize their potential next week.

Hear my whole interview with Greg Ives as we chatted about preparing for Sonoma. Plus, more about the No. 48 team and his late model colors.

Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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