By: Ashley McCubbin
When Ally Racing told Alex Bowman to go with the throwback of his choice, he could have gone with any thing he has ran through his career. Instead, though, he elected to recreate one of his crew chief Greg Ives’ late model schemes.
“Personally, I was pretty shocked,” Ives shared. “I’m not one that really likes to be in the spotlight. I try to elevate others around me versus doing that to myself. I was a little embarrassed when it was unveiled to me. Alex (Bowman) had that surprise for me. But ultimately, it brought back a lot of great memories of just being young and not knowing a whole lot and setting your sights and goals on something that maybe wasn’t achievable.
“But in the end, I knew if I put enough hard work behind it, and passion, eventually people would believe in me. I had great family members around me that supported me along the way, and eventually friends that became pit crew members. Hopefully they can look at this paint scheme and enjoy it along the way as well.”
Through his racing career, Ives had several highs and lows, noting the nights of fast racecars and wins were great. However, his most memorable moments came from the time spent with family.
“I would always have to go back to post-race of racing, because came from a big family, not all the time they came to the track but they’re always engaged in racing,” he commented. “I remember at the end of the night, we loaded everything up and couldn’t wait to get home because I knew there’d be hot popcorn on the table and everybody would gather around and talk about the night – whether you’re racing, any race they watched, how the car felt. With a big family, my mom would stay home with the grandkids or some type of reason like that, so it was the best way for us to have that conversation and relive the night. Some nights were better than others, but I’d say that’s the best memory of it.
“Obviously when you win and you’re fast, that’s cool and great, but the reason we did it was because of family. Racing was known for that around the area – a lot of family on my dad’s side that supported me a lot and was always in the stands, and ready to come down after the races into the pits to chat about the night, and then going home knowing my mom was going to be there to talk about it. I think she was allowing us to continue to race because we were having fun doing it; she could have easily shut it down.”
While he had moments behind the wheel, an opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports after graduating college with a mechanical engineering degree in 2003 is something he could not pass up.
“As far as NASCAR racing was. it really wasn’t on the radar being so secluded up there,” he recalled. “NASCAR was just something you tuned on the TV – it wasn’t part of the people around Charlotte had it with in your backyard. It wasn’t until a family reunion at the end of 2003 in August and I met my dad’s cousin and his son-in-law worked for the No. 24 car. I gave him my resume and kind of the rest of history.
“I started at Hendrick – I had a couple engineering positions offered to me, and I turned them down just hoping and waiting for the engineering opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports and it worked out.”
Ives was able to work his way through the ranks at Hendrick, eventually reaching the position of crew chief in 2015 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now partnered with Alex Bowman, the pair have been successful this season, including a victory at Martinsville Speedway.
“I feel like I have a great relationship with all the drivers I’ve had. But with Alex, he is just very open with me,” Ives explained. “He doesn’t really let things get to him. If he wants to pick on me, he picks on me, as you have probably seen, or he’s serious with me. It’s really just an open relationship where he has the ability to be honest. If the cars are running great, he lets me know. If they’re not, he lets me know in a way that it’s constructive and allows us to be better.
“I think it’s vice-versa. If I tell him he needs to click a front brake, he does it. And if I tell him he needs to work on his entry speed, he does it. I’m not doing it to put him down, I’m doing it so we’re better as a team. I think that’s the thing that we have most in common. Yeah, we’re kind of quiet people. We like to be on our own a little bit. We like working on our cars. We like having our own race teams and just working hard.
“There are a lot of similarities outside of racing that we have in common, as well. I kind of get his lifestyle and where he came from. I respect about how he came up and that he didn’t always have things handed to him but was given opportunities and made the best of them.”