Ives Ready for New Challenge

Earnhardt Jr.

The 34-year-old Ives got the call from team owner Rick Hendrick and will replace Steve Letarte, who will join the NBC Sports broadcast team next year, on top of Earnhardt’s pit box after the 2014 season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Greg Ives believes he'll have no problem stepping into the spotlight as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s new crew chief.

The 34-year-old Ives got the call from team owner Rick Hendrick and will replace Steve Letarte, who will join the NBC Sports broadcast team next year, on top of Earnhardt’s pit box after the 2014 season.

As for stepping into what many believe might be the most pressured crew chief role in NASCAR working with the sport’s perennial most popular driver, Ives says bring it on because he's ready for both the challenge as well as a return to what he considers home.

"I'm willing and able to do whatever it takes," Ives said. "The way I feel about the 48-88 shop is it's my home."

A former engineer in the Hendrick Motorsports camp before going on to crew chief, a position he currently holds with Chase Elliott in the Nationwide Series, Ives knows the culture around the organization very well.

That’s just one of the attributes that made him what team owner Rick Hendrick called the “number one” choice to fill the vacancy created by Letarte’s departure and work with Earnhardt Jr.

“Not only is he the most talented candidate, I believe, for the job, but it’ll be the most seamless transition,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t see how it could go any smoother being that he has that past history and understanding of the building. So everybody’s really excited about it – not just me. I think everybody at Hendrick is excited to have Greg come back.”

The move also reunites Ives with crew chief Chad Knaus, whom he worked with as an engineer on the 48 team before his crew chief career took off. That will also provide an immediate benefit in the transition.

“The best part about it is that he knows the culture of the 48/88 shop,” Earnhardt said. “He knows what that shop’s about and how the work goes on in that shop, the mentality there. He has a great rapport with not only Chad but a lot of the employees that are working there. He’s worked with all those guys in the past.”

Earnhardt and Ives have already created a bond, albeit as competitors in a fantasy football league where apparently Junior’s new crew chief excelled.

"I thought I'd run the league with my jaw," Earnhardt chuckled. "Greg was winning every game. He destroyed me, not only on the gridiron but also the message board as well.”

While Ives will finish the season hoping to guide Elliott to a Nationwide Series championship for JR Motorsports, he’ll also spend some time with Letarte and the 88 team down the stretch of the Sprint Cup season in hopes of getting a bit of a head start on 2015.

But at the end of the day Ives feels he’s always been a part of the family and his formal return inside the Hendrick fold is another example of the devotion that has punctuated the organization’s history.

“The loyalty and the 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,” Ives said. “It makes me feel good just to be part of it.”

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