How will Greg Ives handle the spotlight as Dale Jr.’s crew chief?

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Within an hour of Hendrick Motorsports’ announcement that Greg Ives (pictured, right) would become the new crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting in next year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup season, he was trending on Twitter in the United States.

That’s the thing about NASCAR’s most popular driver: Whatever happens with him is going to have a big spotlight on it.

And Ives will have to show that he can handle the heat.

This will probably be the biggest test for Ives when he moves over to the No. 88 from his current duties at JR Motorsports shepherding young Nationwide Series phenom Chase Elliott.

As an engineer for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team during its five-year run of Sprint Cup titles from 2006-2010, Ives had to help keep one of the most impressive dynasties in NASCAR history on top, again and again.

And right now, he’s bringing along a young driver that could become one of NASCAR’s biggest faces over the next 10-20 years.

So, Ives is used to pressure. And winning. But what awaits him in 2015 is a different kind of pressure.

While Ives should get along well with Earnhardt as they’re familiar with each other through their work at JRM, Ives will have to deal with an amount of attention that dwarfs anything he’s ever encountered.

All of his decisions – especially the ones that may backfire on the 88 – will be open to nitpicking, dissecting, and second-guessing from an insanely rabid fan base and a media contingent that stretches beyond the racing world because of Earnhardt’s presence.

The level of scrutiny will be far, far, far above what he gets at this point in the Nationwide Series. Even in his current position of guiding a potential future superstar like Elliott, the difference might as well be night and day.

But for Ives, it will be essential to block out all that noise in order to carry out his most important task: Continue the upward trajectory Earnhardt’s been on since last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and help him finally join his late father as a Sprint Cup champion.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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