Aug 1, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Greg Ives won five consecutive Sprint Cup titles as an engineer for Jimmie Johnson and is currently a crew chief in the Nationwide Series.
But when he becomes the big man on the box for Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season, it’ll mark his first run as a crew chief in NASCAR’s top level.
However, both Earnhardt and Johnson believe that Ives will prove that he’s worthy of the opportunity he’s been given.
“We want to try to get better. I think we have in making this decision,” said Earnhardt, who noted that he was happy to not be “in limbo” about who would replace his current crew chief, Steve Letarte, at season’s end.
“I haven’t been able to really talk to the guys yet, but the ones that I have been able to talk with – they feel like that is what we have done. We are going to be a better team for it once we get going next year. I mean, it’s a big relief to get it off my shoulders and not worry about who we are going to be working with.
“What kind of personality he is going to be and whether or not we are going to get along or whether he is going to work and whether the chemistry is going to be good and the cars will be fast – I don’t have to worry about that. I feel good about it.”
Earnhardt also said he was glad that Letarte, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, and HMS general manager Doug Duchardt all agreed that Ives was the best choice.
“Number one: It was great to hear how confident Rick and Doug and Chad and all them were in this particular choice,” he said. “That gets me excited. I can get right behind that.
“I already know how good Greg is, but just knowing that Chad and everybody believes in that decision and thinks that we will be even better off than we are today.”
As he’ll be working with the 88 camp, Ives will also be seeing a lot of Johnson, Knaus and the 48 crew since the two squads share shop space.
Johnson is hopeful that with Ives on board, the dynamic between the teams will remain solid after Letarte heads over to NBC Sports, where he’ll work as a NASCAR analyst.
“[Ives has] worked very hard to develop as a crew chief and individual,” Johnson said. “He’s been a crew chief on Junior’s Nationwide programs and if you look at his stats and what he’s accomplished there as a crew chief, you can say he has definitely earned this opportunity.
“I’m very happy for Greg and his family and look forward to seeing him more on a daily basis. I went through so many years seeing him all the time and he was such an integral part of finding speed in our race cars, and it’s going to be nice to see him a lot more often now.”
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