THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and kick off with today’s Camping World 400 race winning crew chief Greg Ives. Thank you for joining us here. I know that was a win that you guys have been chasing for a long time. Just talk to us a little bit about your thoughts now that you can officially say that you guys have been to Victory Lane.
GREG IVES: Yeah, I mean, I think you chase everyone that you compete and participate with, no matter if it was a pit bike race like I did yesterday or if it’s a Cup Series or just a footrace. Finishing second there I think has been valuable for us to learn and grow as a team. Just kind of like what happened ‑‑ almost mimicked what happened in Kansas, but I think Alex had some experience behind him and allowed him to understand that Kyle’s car was going to adjust and change a little bit when he got out front, and he just had to stay after it and attack.
Sometimes if you feel beat, you’re going to get beat, and I felt like he had that experience to know he still had an opportunity, and he took advantage of it.
Q. Even once Alex started running for Hendrick and even though he had been around in the past, people were calling him a rookie last year. It’s like this kid has never gotten the respect that he deserved. What would you tell people that really don’t know what his potential is?
GREG IVES: Well, I mean, sometimes respect is what you’ve got to go and get, and I think he’s been capable of doing that. I feel like I’ve underperformed a little bit with the cars and been able to over the course of the last month and a half, two months been able to give him an opportunity to run up front and show what he’s made of.
You know, last week in Sonoma we had ‑‑ every week I have one of my guys kind of give the team meeting, and his main theme was go get that respect, and I think that’s something we’ve been trying to do, and I think Alex, as well.
We joked about it and had a couple laughs about it, but in the end, it is true that we just have to go out there and know that nothing is going to be given to us. It’s up to us as a team to know where we’re running and what we need to do to get better and to improve.
Like I said, over the course of the last few months, we’ve been able to do that, and I think that’s really been the key, Alex stepping up as the leader of the team and this becoming Alex’s team rather than the 88 team of Dale and past teams. Take nothing away, he had to just make it his own identity, and he’s been able to do that.
THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by our race winner, Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 AXALTA Chevrolet. Alex, just a few quick thoughts from you on now officially being a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner.
GREG IVES: Whoo!
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, what he said. I’m pretty speechless. I feel like I kind of just want to get home and enjoy it with my friends. It’s something that ‑‑ that’s all I’ve wanted my whole life, and now that we won one race, I don’t really know what to do with myself a little bit.
But just very thankful for Hendrick Motorsports, AXALTA, Nationwide, LLumar, Valvoline, everybody that stuck behind somebody with ‑‑ I don’t come from a racing family, I don’t have a big resume. I kind of went from running the back every week to doing this, and still not really sure how that all happened, but it’s been a heck of a ride. And just very thankful for the opportunity and thankful for getting to work with people like Greg Ives and this 88 team.
Q. I wanted to ask you, how much of what you kind of just spoke about and what you spoke about earlier goes into you passing Kyle back and winning that race? There was no let it go, you came back. It wasn’t like, oh, I gave it a good try. You made the pass and got the win.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, thanks. I was kind of tired of running second. I felt like we had a car capable of winning. We got held up there for a little while. I got super frustrated with some lap cars just not helping us, which they don’t have to help us, but that’s just kind of part of it. We lost a big lead there, and I got pretty frustrated, burned the right rear tire off trying to get around some lap cars. And when Kyle got around me, I was going to tear the right side off it, try and run the fence, or get back around him.
So glad we kept it out of the fence, and I was kind of surprised that he left the top open the way he did and left clean air up there, and surprised that it worked. I guess I should have moved up there earlier. But I didn’t want to run second again.
Q. Alex, how much did the later start with the rain affect the track and how things handled for you today?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, you know, I thought it was going to free up quite a bit more than it did. It really didn’t change the handling of our race car very much. Maybe lost some rear grip as the night came. Didn’t really gain a ton of front grip until we made some changes.
So I feel like we started the race way too tight, but also, kind of once the sun went down, didn’t have a lot to lean on with the right rear. And Greg was able to make some really good calls on what to change with the race car because I kind of needed both. And we were definitely too loose there at the end, but we were able to make it work.
Q. Can you take me through the move by Kyle, how you were able to get that run, the side draft and the contact? And if you were worried about that, and then how much ‑‑ you’ve obviously got to focus on your march, but how much are you worried he’s going to come back now that you’ve made contact and initiated it, if he gets up to you, it’s game on?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I don’t ‑‑ the contact was pretty unintentional. I think that was just aggressive side drafting, and I think Kyle and I are pretty good friends. He’s one of the few guys in the Cup garage that I actually talk to and kind of hang out with a little bit. You know, I think we were just racing really hard, and we raced each other super clean. We raced really hard all night. Coming to the end of the second stage, we were side by side quite a bit, kind of passing each other back and forth. And I wasn’t really worried ‑‑ I know he’s not going to drive in there and wreck us. The contact probably made our car a little better, folding in the right front a little bit. We were so loose we needed to tighten it up a little bit.
But that was just hard racing, and I think it’s a lot of fun to race Kyle like that.
Q. And I also want to ask you, when I think about you and what you’ve gone through and the experiences in the midget, doing stuff with your father racing, your midget experience, and then the injury and even the support of your grandmother and what you’ve gone through to get to this point, when you’re standing on the door, when you’re standing on the roof of the car at the front stretch and people are screaming for you, what’s that moment? What are you thinking about? And is your mind kind of going back to some of these things now as you start to soak in this win?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I don’t really know. I feel like I’m so used to being disappointed in a way after Cup races and stock car races in general. My career hasn’t been what I would have hoped it would have been as a kid.
I’m so happy and I feel like I’m not really showing it because I just don’t really know what to say. I’m just very thankful for the opportunity and thankful for everybody that supported me and stuck with me. Obviously Greg has been a big part of that and really helped me kind of mature, as weird as that is to say, because I’m still a 12‑year‑old at heart, but pretty much the most immature person in the garage probably.
Yeah. Yeah, she’s more mature than me for sure.
GREG IVES: That’s why I brought her up here, just in case you got any tough questions.
ALEX BOWMAN: She’s taking notes, going to critique me after this.
No, it’s been a heck of a last couple years, and I don’t know what to say. I feel like it hasn’t sunk in yet, you know. I feel like once I’m able to kind of go home and be back with the people that were there for the years of running 35th and the same core group of people that I’ve been friends with my whole life, when I get to go home and share it with them, it’s going to be really special.
Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, he did say that. Man, I don’t know. I don’t know how to be excited, I guess.
GREG IVES: This is him and I excited.
ALEX BOWMAN: This is like ‑‑ so this is like role reversal. When we won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2018, we came across the start‑finish line, and Greg said whatever the lap time was, and he was all bummed out and he wanted to run faster than that because his goal was like a 90, and we ran like an 0. I was like, dang, where does that put us. He’s like, oh, P1. Pole for the Daytona 500. That’s kind of how we are a little bit. We’re weirdos.
GREG IVES: I think we just grew up always behind the 8‑ball a little bit and knowing that you had to fight and claw for everything you got. Also stay humble and stay content and understand that it’s the hard work and the people behind you that allow you to get where you’re at, and excited ‑‑ heck, I haven’t got 150 texts in my life in a week, and for those people to reach out and how proud they are, that’s what I do it for.
So my excitement doesn’t always show. But for me, I’m thinking about what I did wrong throughout that race and how I could have done a little bit better. But I guess that’s my job.
ALEX BOWMAN: Greg’s excitement doesn’t show until he starts drinking and his alterego Hansel comes out, and then he’s really excited. And Mr. Hendrick just called him. (Laughter.)
GREG IVES: Anytime he calls, I answer, whether it’s morning, noon, night, Victory Lane. That’s the best place to answer it.
ALEX BOWMAN: Did you guys see he won a pit bike yesterday? How about that? That’s pretty amazing.
GREG IVES: And then he got it stuck in the mud. As good as we do at winning things, we also tend to find a way to embarrass ourselves. Hey, it’s a full‑on show over here.
Q. Greg, how far was Hendrick off at the beginning of the year compared to some of the organizations?
GREG IVES: You guys seemed to have a better handle on that than us. You know, the problem is when you’re fighting and you’re digging and you’re working hard, until you’re winning, you’re off by a lot. And until you’re competing and contending ‑‑ yeah, we could compete in some speedway races and help with that, but as you can tell, I think the whole Chevy organization has started to realize we’re better together. Jim Campbell has been a big part of that, starting at Talladega and that win that we were able to get from that.
So it’s really about us working together, working better, not just the 88 team, not just Hendrick Motorsports but all of Chevrolet.
I think that’s where we were behind. I think we were all behind trying to think that we were smarter than all of us put together. I appreciate the 48 team, the 9 team, the 24 from my camp to help bounce ideas off of and build confidence off of some of the best in the garage.
We were behind, yes, but I think you guys can tell we’re getting better and we’re contending and leading laps, and that’s great, right?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, that’s good, Greg. Leading is good.
Q. Alex, as you’re going through this at the beginning of the year, how hard is it to remain patient and say, you know what, we’re going to get there but it’s going to take some time?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I think the hardest part was the beginning of the year we were typically finishing the best or one of the best in our team, and then the rest of our team found a lot of speed, and we struggled to find that same speed they did. That was the hardest part for me was just mentally staying patient, Greg and I staying on the same page through some of that and the struggles that come with the three other cars in the organization finding speed and us continuing to struggle, and then we find speed at Texas, and I go back the car in the fence in qualifying and the backup car is super old. Just stuff like that, those were the hardest parts.
But Greg and I kind of sat down, got back on the same page, and as soon as we did that, it was like a light switch for us over that off week to just regroup and be really good ever since then.
Q. Alex, you kind of foreshadowed this win in some respects. You said that you guys were getting really close and that a win was about to happen. Did you have Chicagoland circled as one of the potential tracks?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s similar to Kansas. Obviously it’s not repaved like Kansas is. But it’s a very similar racetrack. And we brought ‑‑ I think we brought the same race car.
GREG IVES: Yeah, that was the same race car.
ALEX BOWMAN: So obviously we were really strong there. Probably should have won that race. I gave that one away. We’ve just been so strong at this type of racetrack.
I think after Kansas, we run second, I’m super bummed on that one. My family is from there, and I really wanted to win that race. I was pretty upset with myself, and I got back to the lounge, and one of our engineers, Tim, he’s like, Just wait until Chicago, we’re going to go haul ass there, and we were able to do that.
Q. And that’s the other part of my question. A lot of the drivers seemed to feel like they missed their setup coming into the race and couldn’t seem to catch up throughout the race. Did you guys do that throughout the race, or did you come into the race feeling like you had the right setup?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I think we were really good in practice. We weren’t perfect. You know, we were fighting with a race car that was too tight to run the bottom and too loose to run the top and didn’t really know which direction to go. I told Greg to make a turn in the race, and we started the race pretty much just too tight and were able to make a lot of changes to catch up.
Greg did a really good job of that. I had some poor restarts, which hurt our track position quite a bit, but we were able to have some strong ones at the end and just really made a lot of good changes early that put us in position for the end.
Q. Alex, what kind of person were you in the days following those second place finishes? Were you somebody that nobody wanted to be around? Or could you let it off your shoulders at all?
ALEX BOWMAN: You know, I think the first two I was pretty pumped, right, like Talladega our best finish of the whole year until then was 11th, and we went and ran second, I was thrilled. And then Dover we started last and ran second. I was pretty excited.
Kansas we gave one away, and it was on me, so I was pretty hard on myself. I feel like I’m not super hard on those around me. I’m just really hard on myself, which is probably something I need to work on at times. But just ‑‑ it’s one of those things where nothing has been given to me and I feel like ‑‑ like Dale says, I have a chip on my shoulder that I need to drop. I probably still haven’t dropped it. But it’s just one of those things that I feel responsible for how we run on the weekends, and this is really all I have. I have a great group of friends and family at home, but it’s not a regular ‑‑ it’s not a job to me, it’s my life, and how I run on Sundays kind of dictates my whole week more than it should probably. And Greg and I have had this conversation, it probably does for both of us. We just care a lot.
Those seconds weren’t bad, but there were definitely some worse weeks than that, but definitely pretty hard on myself.
Q. And when you took over the 88 last year, you had said something to me about how you weren’t worried about what might happen if you don’t have success because you planned on having success, and I’m curious if you worried at all between February 2018 and today.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah. I mean, the beginning of this year was rough. I feel like everybody is always ‑‑ I feel like people question me a lot, and if I deserve to be here or not. Just based on the fact that I don’t have a big resume to fall back on. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities throughout my career, but when we went stock car racing, those opportunities got pretty slim.
You know, just getting a Cup win is something that kind of relaxes me in the sense that I feel like I can finally say I deserve to be here. But there were definitely sometimes I was very worried about it. It made going to the racetrack not a lot of fun. But glad we’re having a lot of fun now.
GREG IVES: I think that’s one of the biggest changes for Alex is coming to the racetrack and not thinking about what happens or ‑‑ more or less just thinking about what he can do, and that mindset has changed like that off week that we had. I think that’s been a big contributor to our success, and him being the leader ‑‑ becoming a leader on the team and coming in with a little swagger each week rather than what could ‑‑
ALEX BOWMAN: What’s that? I don’t know what swagger is.
GREG IVES: You’re getting it.
ALEX BOWMAN: Cool. Is that what the ladies like?
GREG IVES: No, that’s Axe or something like that. I try to give him a compliment and he still rags me, so I’m done. (Laughter.)
Q. I know Rick said that you’re his driver after Nationwide said that they were not coming back, but what do you think this means as far as sponsorship search and solidifying your place there?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, that’s really important to us, right? We can’t do this without partners like Nationwide and AXALTA and Valvoline and LLumar and everybody that puts their name on this thing. Finding a partner is really important to us, and I’m glad we have a really good team of people upstairs at Hendrick Motorsports to work on that. I’m confident that we’ll make it happen.
I’m going to be driving the car next year. I’m not worried about that. Mr. H has told me I’m good there, so that’s all I need to hear. We just need to go win some more races and maybe go chase a championship, and I’m confident the rest will take care of itself.
Q. You’re now in the playoffs; how does this change your strategy going forward?
ALEX BOWMAN: Well, I think for me, I can stop watching the points race every week and worrying about trying to be in. Obviously we’re pretty strong in points, but we weren’t locked in by any means.
Doing that, I feel like we can just be more aggressive, take more chances. I feel like I can be more aggressive on green flag pit stops and just little things like that that sometimes if you overstep, it completely ruins your day and costs you a ton of points.
We don’t have to worry as much about that and I can work on getting 10 tenths out of it so when the playoffs come, I know how hard I can push or can’t push.
GREG IVES: For me it’s continuing doing what we’ve been doing, putting our best car on the racetrack run 1, and that’s usually what you put your most time into. Keep on doing that and executing the races the best possible way and allowing these guys to be under the pressure that the playoffs give you.
We have a lot of playoff points that we need to catch up on. This definitely helps, but going into a playoff without not a lot of playoff points is not the best place to be. Focused on trying to do that, and obviously just being consistent, executing and growing as a team.
Q. Did you have a game plan for your celebration when you finally got the monkey off the back?
GREG IVES: No, I didn’t.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I do. Probably won’t be able to talk about it because I probably won’t remember it. But no, we’re going to have a lot of fun.
For me it’s really about enjoying this with my group of friends back home, kind of like I said. Hopefully the whole team will want to come over. My house is right by the airport, so hopefully they’ll stop by on their way home and we’ll have a good time. I’m going to throw Greg in the pool ‑‑ you’re driving home.
GREG IVES: No, I’m not driving home. I’m flying home.
ALEX BOWMAN: So we’re good. I’m going to throw him in the pool in about three hours. You’re going to be in the pool.
GREG IVES: Maybe. That’s fine.
ALEX BOWMAN: Last time we were in the pool there was a thunderstorm going on. Hopefully it’s not storming in North Carolina. But pool party at my house, I think. Hopefully my friends are even there. Knowing them, they’re like asleep because they’ve got to work on Monday morning.
GREG IVES: Yeah, some of us still have to do that.
ALEX BOWMAN: I know for a fact the road crew has Monday off.
GREG IVES: Yeah, they do, but that’s fine.
ALEX BOWMAN: Do you get the day off school tomorrow? Oh, you’re summer. Boom. I’ve tried to throw my girlfriend in Greg’s pool, and she got really upset with me. So Emily is at home right now because I couldn’t find anybody to watch my dogs. She was supposed to come to this race. So I’m in big trouble when I get home.
Q. Have you heard from Emily yet?
ALEX BOWMAN: I don’t have my phone, and there’s probably a bunch of angry text messages.
Q. You finished second at Talladega. You guys, Chevrolet came up with a great plan after having your butts handed to you a couple of times at restrictor plate tracks. What do you have planned going into Daytona now? I know it’s a handling track, it’s going to be a little bit different than what we saw at Talladega, but with the new setup for that track, the principles are there.
GREG IVES: Yeah, it’s probably no surprise that we’re going to continue to work together with the Chevrolets, and like you said, handling is definitely a big part of that there. But the shorter race is different than the 500.
So just a little bit of change in different strategy, but I think you’re going to see changes amongst all the manufacturers a little bit to try to one‑up each other and to try to make each other better than the next guy. We’ll have to see. It’s coming next week.
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, my plan is just to go win.
GREG IVES: Yeah, he’s not even ‑‑ I just tell him what to do and he drives it. When I tell him to pit, he pits, and stay behind whoever he needs to stay behind.
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