(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway is a home game in many ways for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 Ally Chevrolet team.
Michigan State is home to Chevrolet and the team’s primary sponsor, Ally. If that wasn’t enough, team leader Greg Ives is from Bark River, Mich., 436 miles from the location of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN).
“Growing up about 7 hours north of Michigan International Speedway, I’ve been on the race track a few times as a fan,” said Ives, who is in his fifth full season with driver Alex Bowman. “As a fan, there was pressure for my driver, Jeff Gordon, who was my favorite at the time, to get the win.
“I feel the same now as Team Principal Alex, our big sponsor Ally and obviously our manufacturer Chevrolet and of course the fans who show up and want to see us do well.”
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A strong run couldn’t be better for the No. 48 team, Ives and Bowman. The No. 48 team hasn’t finished in the top 10 since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, an eight-race streak.
Meanwhile, Bowman has finished 32nd or worse four times. That includes a 32nd-place finish last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ives acknowledged his team’s recent struggles, but said despite what the stats show, the team isn’t lacking in speed. A little luck, on the other hand, would go a long way towards turning things around before the NASCAR Cup playoffs start at Darlington Raceway on September 4.
“At the end of the day, this is a fast car and I feel like I’m never giving up,” Ives said. “Also making the right changes between practice and racing. I feel like we were able to do that at Indy and put ourselves in position to, I think, keep moving forward and improving our position on the track every lap and every time we pit.
“Unfortunately a punctured front left tire with contact with car 4 (Kevin Harvick) then eventually car 4 later the contact kind of took us out of the race. Until then I thought we were running the race as best we could and overcame obstacles when they arose.
Rather than giving up or being frustrated with the team’s lack of performance lately, Ives said it was more important to see this situation as a chance to grow and learn how they could be. better as a team.
“I feel like this is an opportunity to not only work on the relationship between Alex and myself, but also to empower the guys on the team to keep improving and stepping up and knowing that the Playoffs start in a few weeks, but the uptrend starts this week,” Ives said.
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A solid run, or maybe even a win on Sunday at Michigan, would go a long way to righting the ship for Ives, Bowman and company.
Obviously, that kind of performance would serve to boost the confidence of all parties, but it would mean even more given the proximity of Ally and Chevrolet’s home bases.
“There’s no question we can go in every weekend and win a race,” said Ives, who scored a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in Michigan as crew chief for Regan Smith in 2013. we may not be a favorite right now and may not be considered for Power Rankings or whatever you want to talk about, but you can probably ask anyone, ‘Who can be a sleeper this weekend? end or has potential that hasn’t lived up to its potential for the past few weeks’ and we’ll probably be one of them.
“At the end of the day, go out there and run a race. If we do that, we can easily be in the top 10 and if we qualify well, easily in the top five. Overall to come out of this with a win, especially for the builders battle, for Ally, who is a big contributor and supporter of our race team and also always there for the fans, that would definitely be a big deal.