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Greg Ives named Junior's 2015 crew chief

July 30, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Ives, current crew chief to Chase Elliott, will return to Hendrick Motorsports

RELATED: Ives to benefit Earnhardt in more ways than one | Ives and Junior's relationship started with smack talk | Earnhardt: Hendrick has 'great plan' for Elliott

Greg Ives is going home.

Home being the 48/88 shop that overlooks the vast Hendrick Motorsports complex located near Charlotte Motor Speedway, that is.

Ives, 34, will step into the role of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief for driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 HMS team beginning in 2015.

He will give up his crew chief role in the Nationwide Series, where he is currently paired with Chase Elliott at JR Motorsports, to replace Steve Letarte, who is departing for the role of race analyst with NBC Sports next season.

EARNHARDT JR.'S CREW CHIEF ROSTER
Year
Chief
Races
Wins
1999
Tony Eury Sr.
5 0
2000
Tony Eury Sr.
34 2
2001
Tony Eury Sr.
36 3
2002
Tony Eury Sr.
36 2
2003
Tony Eury Sr.
33 2
2003
Tony Eury Jr.
3 0
2004
Tony Eury Sr.
36 6
2005
Pete Rondeau
11 0
2005
Steve Hmiel
15 1
2005
Tony Eury Jr.
10 0
2006
Tony Eury Jr.
36 1
2007
Tony Eury Jr.
23 0
2007
Tony Gibson
13 0
2008
Tony Eury Jr.
36 1
2009
Tony Eury Jr.
12 0
2009
Brian Whitesell
1 0
2009
Lance McGrew
23 0
2010
Lance McGrew
36 0
2011
Steve Letarte
36 0
2012
Steve Letarte
34 1
2013
Steve Letarte
36 0
2014
Steve Letarte
20 2

Totals: Eight crew chiefs, 21 wins

The Hendrick compound is familiar territory for Ives, who served as race engineer on the No. 48 team with driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus during Johnson's record-setting five-year championship run.

"(It's) a place I have the ability to go back to and people understand my mentality and my work ethic," Ives said during a teleconference following Wednesday's announcement. "They already know what to expect out of (me)."

Earnhardt Jr., twice a winner this season with Letarte and currently second in the points standings, said he and Ives have had "a great working relationship for several years." 

"Not only is he the most talented candidate for the job," Earnhardt Jr. said, "but it will be the most seamless transition. I don't see how it could go any smoother being that he has that … history.

"The best part about it … is he knows the culture of the shop … he knows what that shop is about and how the work goes on, the mentality there. He has a great rapport with not only Chad but (also) a lot of the employees that are working there. He's worked with all those guys in the past."

Team owner Rick Hendrick noted that Ives has "proven that he can win races, and he has all the tools to do big things."

At JR Motorsports, Ives guided Regan Smith to a pair of wins and a third-place points finish a year ago. Elliott has three victories through 18 races this season and currently leads the Nationwide points standings.

That time spent at JRM, and what the organization has been able to accomplish, helped prepare him for the move to becoming a Sprint Cup crew chief, Ives said.

"It has prepared me from levels that I couldn't have learned as a race engineer on the Cup side," he said. "From managing people, managing budgets, everything that goes into a smaller team that you have to have your hands in. …

"It's helped me kind of be a stronger individual and gave me a learning curve a little steeper trying to understand the crew chief side of things."

Earnhardt Jr. said he doesn't expect Ives to mimic Letarte's positive reinforcement style of support, but noted "everybody enjoys that every once in a while.

"He understands working with different people you deal with them different ways. … Nobody is going to be like Steve; nobody's going to be like Chad. No crew chiefs are going to be identical," he said.

"I think a driver likes to hear positive reinforcement. I'm sure Greg and I will learn how to … give and take that. I'm sure he wants to hear it as well. …

"When I look back over the years working with Steve, his cheerleading has sort of gotten less and less and less as the confidence built. The more confident I got in what we were doing, the less cheerleading he had to do, to where it's almost nowhere near as repetitive as it used to be. … 

"I've gotten my mojo back. My confidence is up there and I've got such good belief in my team. I believe in Greg and … the decisions we're making."

In the meantime, Ives will focus on trying to guide Elliott and the No. 9 team to the Nationwide title. His plans for next year are already in place. 

"It's a great feeling to know that hard work does pay off in the end," he said. "It's something that doesn't happen overnight.

"The loyalty and trust that Mr. Hendrick has put into his organization and his people – when he talks about It's all about the people, it definitely shows and it makes me feel good just to be part of it."

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