Ives having success with Bowman from past mistakes

Greg Ives has now won seven races with Alex Bowman but two of them are due to past mistakes. One of those two though was this Sunday in Las Vegas.

See, you have to go back to the 2020 spring race here. Bowman, was second coming to the final caution. They elected to pit that day in that part of the race and it cost them a win that day.

With Bowman running fourth this time around and a yellow with three laps-to-go, he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.

“I’ve been prepared since 2020 for this one,” Ives said.

“Another late caution, Alex was fast. Him and Ryan Blaney were having a good battle. Caution comes out late, and we all elect to pit. Some guys stayed out. We made the wrong call. I made the wrong call.

“We’ve talked about this redemption for a long time. It’s something that never goes away. I may get the years messed up, the time messed up, but I know 10 years from now it’s going to be the same. I made a bad call, redeemed myself a couple years later on it.

“We talked about it a little bit on the radio. Like Alex says, I’m a little bit of a wriggler. This is what we talked about. We didn’t really want to say exactly what we wanted to do, but I feel like him in the car wanted us to stay out, me thinking everybody was going to come down and at least take two tires, and ultimately that was the right call.

“I got lucky maybe with that call and lucky that we have Alex driving that thing, picking up on the restarts. He had a lot of confidence on restarts all day. It doesn’t come down to the last restart and say, Yeah, I got confidence now. It comes down to every restart he was confident in the race car, in what he was capable of, and slowly got us to the point where two tires he wasn’t going to lose.”

Ives and Bowman knew via Kyle Larson’s win last week that they’d take two tires. He knew the three in front would likely take four. So, why not gamble?

“Ultimately when it came out that way, you try to figure out who you can work with and who you can’t,” Ives said. “Ultimately for me it was the front row. If we didn’t get the front row, we weren’t going to win the thing. We might have finished 2nd to 20th. That was my mindset. It wasn’t planned. We don’t have time to plan that well for all that.

“Ultimately I know the situation, the 5, how Cliff thinks. Like I said, we work together. He’s got a win. He’s going to gamble. He’s going to either take two tires or stay out. He pitted. I knew two tires were coming. Same with Rudy. Trying to win the race. We have great cars. We have the speed capable of giving us a front row and winning the thing.

“Ultimately, like I said, we came out on top, but there was no plan between all of us, that’s for sure.”

Well, with only the fourth overtime in Cup Series history at Vegas, it only allowed for two green flag laps until the checkered. With William Byron lining up in third too, it allowed Larson and Bowman to pull away and battle each other for the win.

“I was really surprised,” he said. “On the front row there, you have to run so much throttle. We had been free on the short run, pretty good on the long run. I mean, I kind of feel like I know. Obviously a lot has changed with this race car, but typically two tires tighten you up a ton.

“We were on old tires earlier in the day, like cold old tires. When we had the pit road issue, we came back and put old tires on. I was super tight the whole run. I was worried we were going to be super tight.

“On the front row, you got to drive it like it’s going to stick. Thankfully it stuck.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 06: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Bowman, prevailed by just .178-seconds in what was the third closest finish in Vegas history over Larson who netted his third runner-up in 12 starts on the 1.5-mile track. That ties Dale Earnhardt Jr. for most ever there.

This thing was so fast all day. Just never really had the track position we needed to show it,” Bowman said. “Man, what a call by (crew chief) Greg Ives and the guys to take two (tires) there. Obviously it paid off. Racing Kyle (Larson) is always fun. Got to race him for a couple wins. We’ve always raced each other super clean and super respectfully. Just can’t say enough about these guys. It’s been a pretty awful start to the year, so to come out here and get a win on a last restart deal is pretty special.”

This was a similar circumstance to their Richmond win together last spring.

Bowman led exactly 11 laps in the NASCAR Cup Series race at the Richmond Raceway. They were the most important ones though too. Bowman, had help via a late race caution when Kevin Harvick got into the Turn 1 SAFER barrier on Lap 382 of 400 to bring out the final caution. The drivers all came down pit road and there Bowman was getting an adjustment to his No. 48 Chevrolet that he didn’t even know was occurring.

Ives learned of this move when he was on top of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s pit box a few years ago.

Bowman, would restart third, one row behind Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. At that point of the race, Hamlin had led over half of the race and was restarting in the top spot. He took the lead on pit road during that yellow flag pit sequence when he got by Logano on pit lane.

See, Hamlin who had swept both stages prior, was on the bumper of Logano in the closing laps for the lead and what he thought would be the race win. Then, Harvick crashes and changes everything all over again.

Logano, led 49 laps, came out of the pits second and hoping it would be a battle between he and Hamlin for the win. Prior to the final restart, Logano and Hamlin had combined to lead 179 of the previous 182 laps. Instead, it was Bowman who came out of no where and snookered them both.

Ives’ call for an adjustment paid off for them and put Hamlin behind.

“We just didn’t take off very good there,” Hamlin said of the final restart. “Definitely was the worse that our car took off after a restart. The 48, I’m guessing, his tires pumped up and he was able to take off there, get the lead and then build a lead big enough I didn’t have enough time to get back to him.”

Logano agreed with that too.

“I think that’s probably what it kind of came down to,” Logano said on Sunday. “They (Bowman) made great adjustments to make their car fire off better and what we saw was him being lights out for five, six laps. Then, it equaled out. Then last maybe four, five laps, Denny and I were able to catch him a little bit back.

“I’m just assuming he pumped up his pressure. I’m not sure how much. But seemed like the obvoius play to me. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the strategy of the play, right? IF he didn’t get to the lead in the first two or three laps, he was done, right? He was going to probably finish fifth or sixth. That’s the gamble they took. He took advantage of it, got by everybody pretty quick and kind of made us all look kind of goofy there for a minute.”

Bowman said that even he was surprised by the car coming around on that final restart.

“It did not go the way I thought it was going to go,” said Bowman. “We were pretty awful on short runs all day. To be honest with you, when the caution came out, I was like ‘man we’re going to struggle to get out of here with a top five.’ When we drove away, I was like, “oh my gosh, what is happening?’

“I don’t have a clue what Ives did. I didn’t see a wedge wrench go in it, so I would say air pressure stuff which is typically our go to for short run vs. long run stuff. I sure woke it up, that’s for sure.”

It goes to show you how important and driver-crew chief relationship is in this sport. Cliff Daniels was an asphalt guy but he being paired with Kyle Larson last year, he went to learn what makes Larson click on dirt.

They’ve won 11 races since the start of last season including a championship. The second most wins in that span?

Ives and Bowman.

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