The Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway on August 7 (3 p.m. ET, USA Network). This will be a home race for the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports and crew chief Greg Ives, who will use the event as an opportunity to pursue an important goal.
Ives, who grew up in Bark River, Mich., has not celebrated in Victory Lane at the two-mile track as a Cup Series crew chief while working with multiple drivers. He has one win in the Xfinity Series, which he secured while working with Regan Smith during the 2013 season.
“It’s just one of those places that you want to win at,” Ives told Heavy ahead of the race weekend. “You want to win close to your hometown — or your home track. I was able to do that in the Xfinity car but haven’t been able to capitalize on a victory there in the Cup cars.
“So [I’m] just looking forward to getting there. It’s a unique style track that it’s gonna play into some different strategies. [I’m] looking forward to just having some fun. Winning is fun, so if I’m having fun, we’re winning.”
Ives’ closest brush with a Cup Series victory at Michigan International Speedway took place during the 2015 season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second overall in the No. 88 Chevrolet behind Kurt Busch after leading one lap. Earnhardt also finished 10th during the second trip to MIS in 2015.
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As Ives explained, this trip to Michigan tests the teams in different ways. They have to use a harder tire to account for the high speeds, which creates an edginess. Ives compared the passing experience to riding behind a tractor-trailer on the highway and just getting moved around.
There is also the issue of fuel. If the race stays green, the teams will have to deal with concerns about whether they have enough fuel to make it all the way to the checkered flag. Will they have to make longer pit stops to get enough in the cars, or will they try to save out on the track?
Ives Grew Up Watching Races at Michigan International Speedway
While Bark River may be seven hours away from Michigan International Speedway, it still served as an important destination for Ives. He would drive down to the track after Late Model races so that he could enjoy the weekend of action. Ives also made trips to the Irish Hills while attending college in the Lansing area.
“I remember the first time just seeing the cars,” Ives said. “They looked so small from the grandstands. And my favorite driver back in the day was Jeff Gordon. I wasn’t fan crazy or anything like that, but I had a DuPont shirt. I remember having this picture of myself next to his race car, and then I got to crew chief for him back in 2016.
“Some of those memories [are] of just going to the track and camping out at the Irish Hills Kampground, just not too far away from there with some friends when I was in college. And then ultimately going there on the other side.
“Instead of looking from the stands and how small the cars looked and how far away the pits looked, it was the same sitting on top of that pit box. You know, looking up in the grandstands and thinking, ‘Man, I used to sit there and be in the hot August sun and listen to these guys go around the racetrack.”
Ives will now have that experience of looking out at the stands once again while making his return to Michigan International Speedway. He will try to guide Alex Bowman to his first top-10 finish at the track since the two races in the 2019 season.
This Track Remains Important for the No. 48 Team’s Primary Partner
Bowman and Ives both want to turn in a strong performance to secure more points before the playoffs. They also have the added goal of performing well for the primary partner of the No. 48 team.
Ally Financial, which has been a longtime supporter of HMS and Bowman’s primary partner since his move to the No. 48, calls Detroit home. The company has a strong presence in Michigan and uses the annual trip to the two-mile track as a home race. 2022 will be no different as Ally will be on hand for the race weekend at MIS.
There will be some meet-and-greets with Bowman, Ives, and the entire No. 48 team. The veteran crew chief will remain focused on the task at hand — winning the race — but he will also take time during the meet and greets to deliver an important message.
“I’m thankful, one, that they’re coming to the racetrack and supporting me,” Ives added. “Whether I talk five words or 500 words to them, the first one is, ‘Thanks.’ and [I] appreciate them supporting me.”