BROOKLYN – The Michigan International Speedway is one of the largest track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and it’s a humbling experience for a U.P. native who grew up around smaller tracks.
“It’s great to say I’m from a small town and was able to make it out and make a name for myself,” said Greg Ives, crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports.
Ives is a native of Bark River, and a graduate of Michigan Tech. He grew up around the sport. His dad and brother raced, and his family had a mechanic business. Whether it was dirt, ice, or asphalt, short track racing is what Ives fell in love with at a young age, and all it took was a family reunion in 2003 to propel his career with Hendrick Motorsports. He started out as a post race mechanic, then worked his way up to engineer, and then eventually become crew chief.
“I started at the bottom, tearing down cars, washing cars, cleaning floors, stocking coolers. That helped form a nice foundation for understanding what people go through in all aspects of this sport,” said Ives.
Ives best describes being the crew chief like being the head coach of a football team. He manages everything from the car, to the people who work on it, to the pit crew.
“You have your hands over everything and everybody. You’re able to micro-manage certain positions. I have an engineer that works on simulation. A car chief that works on the car. A pit crew coach that works on the pit crew,” explained Ives.
And life comes full circle. As a kid, Ives watched drivers like Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, and as the crew chief of the number 88 team, he got to work for his favorite driver.
“It’s pretty awesome to see pictures from the stands at Jeff Gordon’s car going around turn three and four and around the race track. He was my favorite driver so for me to able to crew chief him later in his year, you never really think about it until it’s over, but it’s truly special to be able to crew chief with greats like that,” said Ives.
Over the weekend, Ives led the crew for Alex Bowman, who finished 19th in the Consumers Energy 400.