greg ives

Alex Bowman’s crew chief: ‘Any given Sunday’ approach with backup car

Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. — Crew chief Greg Ives has plenty of confidence in his driver and the backup car Alex Bowman will drive in today’s playoff elimination race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Junk doesn’t get built at Hendrick Motorsports,” Ives told NBC Sports and The Athletic Sunday morning. “There may be some small details that I don’t like, but nothing that we can’t fix and get right for today.”

Bowman, who wrecked with 35 seconds left in final practice Saturday, will start in the rear after having qualified second Friday.

He does so as he enters the race two points behind the final cutoff spot, held by teammate and pole-sitter William Byron.

More: Alex Bowman “not immediately worried” about Austin Dillon after Richmond run-in

Bowman will pilot the same car he had on every road course last year, which included qualifying third and finishing fourth in the inaugural ROVAL race.

When it comes to strategy, Ives has to “change it up, all of it up.

“Stage points are going to be hard to get. All race tracks, no matter where you go, it’s hard to pass. Starting at the back and going to the front is going to be hard. We’ll have to switch up our strategy … focused on Stage 2 points.”

Last year’s race winner, Ryan Blaney, who entered holding the final transfer spot, pitted during a caution on Lap 14. That allowed him to stay out when the field pitted at the end of stage 1 on Lap 25. Blaney moved toward the front and won stage 2, earning 10 stage points and also positioned him to win the race.

But does Ives believe his No. 88 team still has a chance to win?

“Any given Sunday, right?” Ives said. “I think we have the ability. We had the speed in our car. Alex was doing all the right things. Just had one corner, one bad thing happen.”

Ives said the timing of the incident in the final practice session Saturday is irrelevant.

“It doesn’t matter if it happened the first run on the track or the last run on the track,” he said. “You don’t ever question the driver’s ability and I don’t want him to question anything that I do. Our job is to react to whatever his needs are and his need was a new car.”

and on Facebook

NASCAR penalty report after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

NASCAR on Wednesday issued five penalties to crew chiefs in the Cup or Xfinity series following this past weekend’s racing action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In the Cup Series, crew chiefs Greg Ives (No. 88 driven by Alex Bowman), Adam Stevens (No. 18 driven by Kyle Busch) and John Klausmeier (No. 10 driven by Aric Almirola) were each fined $10,000 apiece for lug nut(s) not properly installed, found during post-race inspection.

In the Xfinity Series, crew chiefs David Elenz (No. 9 driven by Noah Gragson) and Jeff Meendering (No. 19 driven by Brandon Jones) were each fined $5,000 apiece for lug nut(s) not properly installed, found during post-race inspection.

There were no other penalties assessed.

In addition, driver Bayley Currey was reinstated after completing NASCAR’s Road To Recovery substance abuse program.

NASCAR Darlington penalty report

Getty Images
1 Comment

NASCAR on Wednesday issued five penalties — four in Cup and one in the Xfinity Series — stemming from last weekend’s Cup and Xfinity races at Darlington Raceway.

In Cup, four crew chiefs were each fined $10,000 apiece for lug nut(s) not properly installed:

* Mike Wheeler, No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota (driver Matt DiBenedetto).

* Greg Ives, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (driver Alex Bowman).

* Chad Knaus, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (driver William Byron).

* Chad Johnston, No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (driver Kyle Larson).

In the Xfinity Series, one crew chief was fined $5,000 for lug nut(s) not properly installed:

* Jeff Meendering, No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (driver Brandon Jones).

There were no other penalties issued.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Alex Bowman celebrates first Cup win with friends and the rising sun

1 Comment

The sun officially rose over the area surrounding Charlotte, North Carolina, at 5:41 a.m. ET Monday morning.

It was playing catchup to Alex Bowman.

Bowman and a large group of friends with adult beverages took the Garth Brook’s song “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” to heart as they celebrated his first career Cup win less than 12 hours earlier at Chicagoland Speedway.

MORE: Long: Cup victory marks giant step forward for Alex Bowman

Bowman announced on Twitter at 5:29 a.m. ET that he and his friends were getting ready to welcome the sun to the party.

After his win Sunday, Bowman said the weight of the victory would sink in once he returned home.

“I feel like once I’m able to kind of go home and be back with the people that were there for the years of running 35th and the same core group of people that I’ve been friends with my whole life, when I get to go home and share it with them, it’s going to be really special,” Bowman said. “Probably won’t be able to talk about it because I probably won’t remember it.  But no, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Bowman also joked he planned a special celebratory act for his crew chief Greg Ives.

“I’m going to throw him in the pool in about three hours,” Bowman declared.

At press time, it was unknown if Ives had met his watery fate. But he did spend the early morning hours tweeting about what the win meant to him.

Long: Cup victory marks giant step forward for Alex Bowman

Leave a comment

JOLIET, Ill. — Alex Bowman climbed from his car, which was stuck in the mud, and steadied himself on the door. The next step he took elevated him into a moment of a lifetime.

There on the car’s roof, Bowman stood, a Cup winner for the first time.

As he relished the feeling, the 26-year-old shed the doubt, disrespect and disappointment that has followed him in his career.

“I feel like I’m so used to being disappointed in a way after Cup races and stock car races in general,” Bowman said after winning Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway. “My career hasn’t been what I would have hoped it would have been as a kid.”

If you get beat down enough, sometimes it’s hard to truly revel when things go so well. Runner-up Kyle Larson noted how Bowman’s celebration seemed muted.

“Looking at the big screen, he’s like the most unexcited person I’ve ever seen in my life to get his first Cup win,” Larson said.

Larson went to victory lane to congratulate Bowman and told his friend how calm he looked. Bowman said he didn’t know what to do.

“I’m so happy, and I feel like I’m not really showing it because I just don’t really know what to say,” Bowman later said.

Bowman’s voyage to this victory was an odyssey that no one will ever repeat. He was not ordained in the way others have been, their paths to Cup paved with the proper funding and elite rides.

“His story in climbing up through the ranks … is like the workingman’s story,” teammate Jimmie Johnson said.

Nine years ago, Bowman was in an intensive care unit, eyes swollen shut, ribs and collarbones broken after a vicious crash in a midget car. Told he’d be out eight weeks, he returned in half that time.

Bowman was the K&N Pro Series East rookie of the year in 2011, beating Chase Elliott for that honor, and won that same award the next year in the ARCA Series to earn a ride in the Xfinity Series in 2013.

The rise to Cup was quick but the rides were unremarkable. He drove for BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing, two teams that no longer exist, in 2014-15. He was prepared to run for Baldwin’s team in 2016 until he found out on Twitter less than a month before the Daytona 500 he was no longer with the team.

Bowman ran only nine Xfinity races in 2016 and returned to Cup only after Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed the second half of the season because of concussion symptoms. Bowman filled in for Earnhardt for 10 races. When Earnhardt returned in 2017, Bowman ran no Cup races, two Xfinity races (with one win) and one Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. Instead, his time was spent mostly in Chevrolet’s simulator working for Hendrick Motorsports.

When Bowman was selected to take over the No. 88 after Earnhardt’s retirement in 2018, some people thought Bowman was a Cup rookie unaware he had run two full seasons.

“I feel like people question me a lot, and if I deserve to be here or not,” Bowman said. “Just based on the fact that I don’t have a big resume to fall back on. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities throughout my career, but when we went stock car racing, those opportunities got pretty slim.

“Just getting a Cup win is something that kind of relaxes me in the sense that I feel like I can finally say I deserve to be here. But there were definitely some times I was very worried about it. It made going to the race track not a lot of fun. But glad we’re having a lot of fun now.”

Crew chief Greg Ives understands the questions. There were those who wondered about him being paired with Earnhardt in 2015 even though Ives didn’t have experience as a crew chief in Cup.

“Sometimes respect is what you’ve got to go and get, and I think (Bowman) has been capable of doing that,” said Ives, who won three Cup races with Earnhardt in 2015 but none since until Sunday. “I feel like I’ve underperformed a little bit with the cars and been able to over the course of the last month and a half, two months been able to give (Bowman) an opportunity to run up front and show what he’s made of.”

Bowman scored consecutive runner-up finishes at Talladega, Dover and Kansas.

Bowman said the Talladega finish was good since he hadn’t placed better than 11th to that point in the season. The Dover result also felt good after he started at the rear. The Kansas finish was the most disappointing, he admits.

“I’m super bummed on that one,” Bowman said. “My family is from there, and I really wanted to win that race. I was pretty upset with myself, and I got back to the lounge, and one of our engineers, Tim (O’Brien), he’s like, ‘Just wait until Chicago, we’re going to go haul ass there,’ and we were able to do that.”

All four Hendrick Motorsports cars were strong Sunday but Bowman had to take this win from Larson after Larson chased him down and took the lead with eight laps to go. Tired of those runner-up finishes this season, Bowman pursued, pressured and persevered, passing Larson with an aggressive side draft and slight contact with six laps to go.

“The contact was pretty unintentional,” Bowman said. “That was just hard racing, and I think it’s a lot of fun to race Kyle like that.”

And even more fun winning.

“It’s something that,” Bowman said, “that’s all I’ve wanted my whole life.”

 and on Facebook