Ives keeps pushing NASCAR crew

Courtesy photo Greg Ives, right, chats with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at a recent NASCAR race in Charlotte, N.C.

ESCANABA — Greg Ives has one of the most intense jobs in sports as he works for one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in history.

As crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ives has to make sure everything runs smoothly before, during and after the race.

Ives, 38, loves his job, though, as he has worked his way up from driving to a mechanic and finally all the way up to Earnhardt’s crew chief.

“My favorite part about the job is what it took to get to it,” said Ives. “The people you get to work with along the way and the respect you have to gain to get a position like this. Once you get to where you want to be its the challenge everyday of digging in deep and understanding that you can’t stay the same as yesterday.”

With Earnhardt retiring this year, Ives knows what it takes to win and will use his experience to continue to develop young drivers.

“In order to win races and get better throughout the season you have to push people to give it their best,” said Ives. “You have to grow individuals from infancy to greatness.”

Ives has worked hard to get where he is today and enjoys seeing other people do the same thing and being able to help them get there.

“Where I stand now is I’ve seen the steps that I’ve taken to get where I’m at and trying to grow other people who have goals that want to reach certain aspects in their career and to be a part of that is a neat experience for me.”

Ives, a 1998 graduate of Bark River-Harris, was interested in racing at a young age watching his father and brother race. His brother Steve who is 17 years older started racing before Greg was born so you can say he was born into the sport.

“Whenever he was working on something or racing something I was just always around,” said Ives. “When I remember him racing it was mainly asphalt circle tracks whether it was Escanaba Speedway or Norway. Those were the tracks that I remember going to when he was racing.”

Ives got into racing himself when he was 16 and raced until he was 23 and graduated from Michigan Tech University. From there he submitted an application through his dad’s cousin’s son-in-law who worked at Hendrick’s Motorsports at the time. He landed a post-race mechanic at Hendrick’s Motorsports.

He worked his way up through Hendrick’s and eventually landed a job as a crew chief for Chase Elliot at Junior Motorsports from 2013-2015 and then became Earnhardt’s crew chief in 2015 where he has won three races.

Ives is fortunate to have been able to work with Earnhardt and getting to know him as a friend.

“It’s been a good experience as far as understand that Dale’s personality and mine are very similar,” said Ives, who also was a team engineer for Jimmie Johnson. “He’s down to earth and he’s very family oriented. He loves having family and friends over to his house.”

Ives points out that Earnhardt doesn’t take this sport for granted even with all the success he’s had over the years.

“He definitely enjoys what he does and he obviously wants to win,” said Ives. “Sometimes you get disappointed when you’re not running well or not winning but you still have to be pretty grounded and know what we do for a living is special that not everybody doesn’t get to do so he doesn’t take it for granted and he cherishes the moments.”

NASCAR is in a transition stage with its major stars such as Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retiring but Ives believes there is a lot of young talent coming up and the sport carries on and will have new stars.

“I think you see that transition through any type of sport,” said Ives. “If you look at the football recently with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott you see that there’s a change in guard. Your saw that with the Green Bay Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. That’s how life works. Everybody gets older and new talent comes along.”

Ives believes NASCAR is in good hands with guys like Elliot, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.

“I think the dynamic we have with Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliot and Kyle Larson to fill that hole is what you need,” said Ives. “You got these new stars coming in and Dale, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart going out. Those are some big shoes to fill but you can find greatness in the other three names in Chase, Ryan and Kyle. That’s what you need to keep everything fresh for fans and keep everyone interested.”

After Earnhardt retires Ives will stay on with the 88 team as the crew chief as someone else steps in to drive. He loves what he does and wants to continue it as long as he can.

“Its up to us as a race team to continue to bring the cars to the racetrack and not even think of Dale retiring,” said Ives. “You have to prepare the race cars no matter who’s in the seat. You can’t just not do you’re job just because someone else is in the seat. The plan is to continue on into 2018 as the 88 team and as far as the driver I don’t know who the driver’s going to be. We’re going to continue on and keep trying to win races like we’re doing right now.”