chevy racing–nascar–pocono–greg ives

GREG IVES, CREW CHIEF FOR THE NO. 88 CHEVYGOODS.COM CAMARO ZL1 1LE FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, spoke with media via teleconference to discuss going into the first doubleheader race weekend in NASCAR history at Pocono Raceway, his thoughts as a crew chief on single-day shows without practice, and more. Transcript:  HOW EXCITING AND HOW CHALLENGING WILL IT BE TO BE RUNNING BACK-TO-BACK DAYS AT A TRACK LIKE POCONO? “Unfortunately for us, the doubleheader is going to be new to us, but our friends over at JRM just experienced that at Homestead a couple of weeks ago. Talking to Dave Owens, Travis Mack, and those guys, the crew chiefs over there, just getting some of their ideas and the problems they had. I know on the 9 car, they had to replace some body panels and those types of things. It’s definitely going to be new and exciting. I grew up short track racing myself and having twin-125’s and those types of things. Obviously, different scenarios on different days, but it’s definitely going to be fun to do something different.”
IF I READ THE RULES RIGHT, IT LOOKS LIKE YOU MAY HAVE 8 TO 9 HOURS TO WORK ON THE CAR FROM SATURDAY TO SUNDAY. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF TIME.“Yeah, I mean it’s always a lot of time until you’re down to the last 20 to 30 minutes. Typically, that’s what the race teams do. They utilize every minute they possibly can, either to make their car better or to double-check things. We have a full list of items that we’re going to either check or inspect to make sure that we don’t have any issues. Who knows what types of incidents we’re going to run into. You’re planning for some pushing on restarts, so are you going to have tail or rear bumper damage that doesn’t necessarily make you want to go to a backup car, but you have to fix it before you go back into the next race. There’s a lot of things like that you don’t have the luxury of your fabricators at the track to make sure it’s right, so that all takes time. Multiple runs maybe through the hawk-eye system and that nine hours is going to go by pretty quick. I think NASCAR is putting that amount of time in just because it’s new. Let’s not try to hit a home run the first time – make sure these guys have enough time to diagnose any issues they may have. And the next time we do this, maybe we can trim back some time.”
YOU GUYS HAVE BACKUP CARS THIS WEEKEND – THAT’S BEEN A REASON WHY THERE HASN’T BEEN PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING. HOW CLOSE DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS ARE TO BEING ABLE TO HAVE BACKUP CARS EVERY WEEKEND IF NASCAR WANTED TO START HAVING ANY PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING? “I think the one thing that backup cars cause issue with is the workforce in the shop. Just having to prepare two cars each week and do that without maybe all one hundred percent personnel in the shop. That tends to make for some long hours and you know what happens when people work long hours – they tend to get grumpy and we don’t want that to happen. This is a fun sport and enjoy what we love to do. Eliminating some of the mid-week races, the Wednesday races, helps that. But all-in-all, you just have to look at the pro of having practice versus what we’re doing already. I feel like what we have right now as a product on the race track is pretty good and that is without a backup car, without qualifying and without practice. I think for the short term, to continue on like this is probably the best way to go.”
FROM A CREW CHIEF STANDPOINT, YOU SAID IT LOOKS LIKE THE SHOWS HAVE BEEN BETTER WITHOUT PRACTICE AND THE SINGLE DAY SHOWS. WHEN THINGS GET BACK TO NORMAL, ARE YOU ITCHING TO SEE PRACTICE BACK? DO YOU THINK THE TEAMS CAN GO WITHOUT PRACTICE IN THE FUTURE? HOW DO YOU SEE IT?“I would like to see practice come back, just from the sense of I have some things I’d like to try to make the car better. You can run as much simulation as possible, but getting it on the race track is the true test. The true feel from the driver and also the stopwatch. I would definitely like to do that being in the Playoffs. Usually this time is used for experimenting and finding that next tenth or two, which is so hard to find in this sport because of how close everything is with rules and the competition. I would like to have practice – not necessarily because I think it’s going to make the racing better on Sunday or easier for the guys in the shop. But I feel like from my standpoint, I go to tests to make my car better and as a crew chief, that’s what you want to be able to do. That’s what I would like to do – have a little bit more time on the track without actually racing.”
WITH EVERYTHING THAT’S GOING ON WITH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, YOU GUYS FIND YOURSELF IN AN UNIQUE POSITION WHERE YOU HAVE TWO RACES AT THE SAME RACE TRACK ON THE SAME WEEKEND. SO, IT’S ALMOST LIKE YOU GET A PRACTICE SESSION NOW WITH THE RACE ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU’RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO ADJUST BETWEEN SATURDAY AND SUNDAY TO MAKE THE CAR BETTER, DEPENDING ON HOW ALEX (BOWMAN) IS FEELING?“You really can’t change the body configuration. You can to a certain point. If you come there with more of a downforce car versus – you hear that a lot- I had too much drag in the car. It’s going to be difficult, probably, to change that style. There’s some tweaks you can make to get some of the drag off or maybe put some downforce in. But you can’t, obviously, rebuild the whole car. From my springs, shocks, camber settings, those types of things – you definitely can adjust. By the time it’s the end of stage one, usually my engineer is over there ‘hey, we should have done this or we should have done that’. I’ve already got a laundry list of items going of what we need to adjust and that’s not even for a doubleheader. Fortunately for us, I feel like we’ve had good baselines, a good foundation, each week and had a lot of speed. Just have to figure out how to execute and finish some of these races. I think for Pocono, I think the strategy side of things, you’re going to see how different people adjust. They may do one strategy on Saturday and one strategy on Sunday. That’s definitely going to be interesting to see how that plays out.”
OF ALL THE THINGS THAT MIGHT HAPPEN WHEN YOU HAVE A DOUBLEHEADER WEEKENDWHAT ARE YOU MOST INTRIGUED TO FIND OUT?“Over the course of every year, every race, the track gains character. And what I mean by character is the bumps. Pocono, for example, it started out as a pretty smooth race track. You could stiffen up your front wheel brakes and mainly work on the attitude of the car, and get that so it really doesn’t move like a go-cart. But as the character of the track zones in over the tunnel and gets a little bit more bumps – and now people complain about the front end washing out because you hit a bump and it pushes up the race track, and now you have to work a little more on handling – those are the things that you can’t really predict when you don’t have practice. Typically, when you show up, you have a couple of laps – the driver comes in and says ‘yeah, I’m hitting the splitter too hard, we need a little softer front wheel or it’s way too rigid’, and you can work on that. Once you get into the race, it’s definitely difficult to know that or even change that once those laps start clicking off. The character of the track, you’ve probably even seen it at Talladega, that new tunnel in the entry of Turn Three, you can see the cars moving around a lot more. And you didn’t know that until either watching a race – the ARCA cars or the Xfinity cars – but once we got out there, definitely saw some different things like that.”
WHO DO YOU THINK BENEFITS FROM THIS KIND OF SCHEDULE? THE BIGGER TEAMS WITH TWO RACES IN A WEEKEND? DRIVERS WHO RACE A LOT? DRIVERS WITH EXPERIENCE? YOUNG GUYS?“I definitely think those that kind of have it together with a good foundation. Like I said, we were able to start the year, when we had practice, dialing our setup a little bit. Once we were able to start racing again, we were able to have some really strong runs and, potentially, could have had multiple wins. As the weeks start clicking off, everybody starts zoning back in on what they need to compete – either getting their cars better, setups better, drivers knocking the rust off, teams correlating their splitter heights and what the tires need for air pressure and grip. I think just having that solid baseline to start with and not trying to hit a home run, and ‘hey, we know this package is going to race well, so let’s not try to re-invent the wheel and just go out there and have a solid foundation’. Obviously, the bigger teams are able to feed off of each other. I have a lot of great teammates at Hendrick Motorsports that I can lean on for advice and what their thoughts are going into each week. So, I think it tailors a little bit better to the bigger teams and those that have more experience. The smaller teams, it’s maybe just taking a couple of weeks to zone in on what they need.”
JUST WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT POCONO AND INDIANAPOLIS – THE PAST, PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO LOOK AT IT AS BEING ABLE TO TAKE WHAT YOU HAD IN POCONO INTO INDIANAPOLIS. IS THAT STILL A CASE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF POCONO? “I think everything is relevant. I feel like, as a crew chief, every lap I learn. We used to test at Nashville or Kentucky back in the day, down to New Smyrna – every lap we learned. Pocono definitely has a lot of characteristics with the flat corners, in some sense, and understanding what your package is going to do there. Like I said, the character of Pocono is just going to be a little bit different than Indy. How your car is going to draft down the front straightaway versus at Indy with their long straightaways. So, there are a lot of similarities that you can definitely pull from. If you feel like you selected the wrong aero package at Pocono, it’s probably going to be the wrong one at Indy. And you’re going to do some more things to maybe trim the car out or vice versa – if you trim the car out too much and you still need the handle at Indy. There’s definitely a lot of similarities and like you said, you can learn from Pocono, you can learn what not to do to bring to Indy. Ultimately, definitely a different character at each track, so it’s not a complete ‘hey, I just won Pocono, now I’m going to go win Indy because of this package’. That’s probably not the best way to think about it, but it definitely correlates a lot. Both tend to have the fuel mileage race and that strategy at the end of each stage to win stage points or put yourself in the best position at the end of the race. So, a lot of similarities, a lot of things you can carry over, but it’s not a complete one off.”
CERTAINLY, I’M SURE YOUR AWARE, THE CHARLOTTE AREA HAS MORE CORONA VIRUS CASES. I’M CURIOUS, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT THE GUIDANCE THAT YOU GIVE YOUR TEAM TO PROTECT THEMSELVES? “Definitely. On an individual basis, you have to have those conversations with each guy that you have on your team. Like you said, from the comfort level of traveling to different areas. I’ve had that conversation with them. The other thing is, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is taking this time seriously. When we are traveling to Pocono, how are we going to feed our guys and supply them with the food they need. It may sound trivial, but not having them go to restaurants to potentially expose them. And we’ve come up with plans where basically we give them the meals they need so they are only going to one location. Making sure they eat at the track versus going out to somewhere else. Those types of things, even from how we are feeding the guys to how we are protecting them, is definitely very much important to not only myself, but everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I feel like we’re doing it the best way, the safest way. For those that may feel uncomfortable in those scenarios or situations, we’re definitely hearing their voice and taking the proper protocol.” 

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