Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup series race of the season Sunday. The win was significant for several reasons. It marked the first time Earnhardt has won at Talladega Superspeedway since 2004 and it was the first time he and crew chief Greg Ives have celebrated a win together. Ives, however, was almost absent for the victory and the celebration Sunday.
Ives took the helm for Earnhardt Jr. at the start of the season. He was named the crew chief for NASCAR’s most popular driver last year when Earnhardt’s crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports Steve Letarte announced that the 2014 season would be his last atop the pit box. Letarte made the move to NBC Sports as an analyst when the network begins their NASCAR coverage in July. Ives, who had left Hendrick Motorsports to become crew chief for then- rookie Chase Elliott. He helped lead Elliott to the NASCAR Xfinity series championship last season. Prior to that Ives had been first a mechanic then engineer on the No. 46 team and driver Jimmie Johnson. He was part of the team that won five consecutive Sprint Cup championships.
Ives and Earnhardt were strong right off the bat. They scored top five finishes in the first three races and have two more top fives in the six races since. Although the duo looked strong, a win eluded them. Until Sunday. Now he and Earnhardt are locked into the Chase.
“You can always say it’s a relief,” Ives said. MORE>>>