Monday, November 16, 2015

Right Sides Only: Notes from Quicken Loans 500 Race for Heroes Winning Crew Chief, Greg Ives

It wasn't just the weather that rained on the heads of a few drivers this weekend at the customarily dry Phoenix International Raceway. For the second consecutive weekend, a non-Chase contending Hendrick driver rained on the chances of four others to advance to the championship round of the Chase.

Following Jeff Gordon's sentimental win at Martinsville, teammate Jimmie Johnson was the first to offer a spoiler alert. This week, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s turn. Crew chief, Greg Ives discussed the team's strategy in a race that was both delayed and shortened by rain.

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images
"Well, you know, kind of based off of Martinsville or any type of rain-delayed situation, NASCAR's main thing is to try to get the race in, and when the weather cleared, they did a good job of making sure that happened," Ives said.

"You know, usually you'll see the first half of the race or at least halfway will go pretty clean, not a lot of debris, not a lot of incidents with the drivers and everybody kind of minds their Ps and Qs. We kind of knew that once past halfway we'd see a couple more cautions. So that rain started to pop up again and we're on two long green flag runs there, and we just saw it coming.  We didn't know if it was going to happen before we pitted or after, but we knew at some point it was going to happen, and we elected to kind of pit, be one of the first few to pit. I think somebody got us one lap early, and our pit selection at pit stall 33 there allowed us to, when the caution came out, finish our pit stop and cross the start-finish line and allowed us to be scored the leader.
"You know, the weekend always starts on Friday. We always talk about that, and we've been trying to improve it all year, and this weekend kind of proved that we were able to do it, qualified third, and get a good pit selection that allowed us to get an advantage that maybe somebody else needed, and we got it. That's how it happened," Ives explained.

Earnhardt Jr. may not have had the dominant car for much of the race but was able to take the lead and, ultimately, the win. Ives was asked whether he felt vindicated after having lost the Talladega race in similar fashion.

"When you look back at the record book, it never says next to the name 'stolen, the race win.' Joey Logano won that fair and square, as Dale put it 'nice and clean.' He said we played by the rules and lost by the rules. Tonight we played by the rules and won by the rules. You know, that's how it works. You've got to put yourself in position to win, and when it happens, it's never going to say why we won or how we won, it just says we're first," Ives said.

Ives will make every effort to ensure that the race trophy presented next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway also bears Earnhardt Jr.'s name. He may no longer be eligible for the championship trophy, but he intends to spoil the race win for whomever takes home the Sprint Cup. 

Check our TV listings later this week for the specific viewing schedule for Ford Championship Weekend. The four drivers (and their crew chiefs) eligible for the championship are Jeff Gordon (Alan Gustafson), Kyle Busch (Adam Stevens), Martin Truex Jr. (Cole Pearn) and reigning champion, Kevin Harvick (Rodney Childers). 

   Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.


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