Hendrick Motorsports has announced that Greg Ives will take over as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team beginning next season, replacing the NBC Sports-bound Steve Letarte.
Ives currently serves as crew chief for Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott on the No. 9 JR Motorsports team. He also worked as a race engineer for HMS’ No. 48 Sprint Cup team during Jimmie Johnson’s run of five consecutive Cup championships from 2006-2010.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me and my family,” Ives said in a team release. “Dale Jr. and I have a great relationship from being in the same shop at Hendrick Motorsports and my time at JRM.
“We have a lot left to do this season in the Nationwide Series, but I’m excited about what’s ahead and look forward to sharing some wins with JR Nation in the future. I couldn’t ask for a better situation than working with one of the best drivers and teams in racing.”
Ives will work directly with No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus in the same shop that the 48 and 88 teams share. Before joining JRM late in 2012, Ives and Knaus collaborated on 42 Sprint Cup wins over a seven-year span.
In his own comments, HMS team owner Rick Hendrick indicated that Ives’ familiarity with Earnhardt (who co-owns JRM with Hendrick) and Knaus was critical to him getting the nod.
“Greg was our number-one choice,” Hendrick said. “This is a talented guy who already has a terrific rapport with Dale Jr. and is a fit with the organization.
“He and Chad had a lot of success together, and all of our crew chiefs think the world of him and what he’s accomplished. Greg’s proven that he can win races, and he has all the tools to do big things.”
In 2013, Ives guided JRM’s Regan Smith to a pair of wins (Talladega, Michigan) and a third-place finish in the Nationwide Series standings before moving over to work with Elliott, the 18-year-old son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott.
So far this season, Ives and Elliott have put up impressive results in Nationwide with three wins (Texas, Darlington, Chicagoland), eight Top-5s and 13 Top-10s. Going into Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway, Elliott holds a four point lead over Smith in that series’ championship.
Elliott has tweeted his congratulations to Ives on his new opportunity:
As for Earnhardt, he hailed Ives as “a strong leader with a cool personality” and a competitive streak that matches his own.
“It was important to find someone who would fit at Hendrick Motorsports and inside our shop, and he will for sure do that,” said NASCAR’s most popular driver. “We got the best guy for the job, and I look forward to working with him next year.
“From a JR Motorsports perspective, I’m extremely proud of how this worked out. Since the end of 2012, we’ve focused on JRM and Hendrick Motorsports working together as closely as possible and developing talented people for the next level. This is a perfect example of that happening the way we hoped it would.”
Earnhardt later tweeted that he and his team “couldn’t be more excited” about Ives coming on board next year, but also stressed that there’s still lots of racing to do this year.