Change is in the air for much of the Hendrick Motorsports garage ahead of the Daytona 500. Chad Knaus, crew chief of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 for 17 seasons, is now in charge of William Byron’s No. 24. Johnson, chasing a record eighth Cup Series championship, is paired up with Kevin Meendering on the 48.
The addition of fresh faces often provides a spark, but Alex Bowman and Greg Ives are hoping stability pays off in the No. 88 as the pair embarks on their second season.
“You know Alex and I working on a full year together, from that standpoint is going to be very good to have that familiarity,” Ives said.
The pairing qualified for the playoffs and reached the Round of 12 in their first season together as Bowman registered his first Cup Series top-5s and notched career-best finishes at 18 different venues in 2018. The duo also kicked off the season by winning the pole at the Daytona 500.
It was a solid first season together, but Ives sees room for improvement.
“A lot of times we didn’t finish in a position not because of what other teams did, it is because of what we did,” Ives said. “So, ultimately it comes back to us being our own opponent in a way. Reducing the number of mistakes maybe on pit road, reducing the number of mistakes on restarts, on the race track, qualifying, all those things and that starts with Alex and I setting that example of trying to continue to work on those details.”
With a year under their belt and a clear picture of what needs to improve, Ives believes the 88 team will be able to put a greater focus on NASCAR’s new rules package, rather than team-building.
“The change to the rules package, whether it’s downforce, drag, the engine package, all that stuff is the change we are going to have to attack now, and it’s nice not to have that change within the team affecting it,” said Ives, who will be in his fifth season as a Hendrick Motorsports crew chief in the Cup Series. “We are building that bond, building that mesh and the change we are going to see is the performance on the race track.”
The bond looked strong at Daytona on Sunday as Bowman locked out the front row for the Daytona 500 alongside William Byron before finishing fifth in the Clash.