NASCAR veteran Ernie Cope will replace Greg Ives next year as the crew chief for Chase Elliott’s JR Motorsports No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet, the team announced Monday.
Ives will move up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year, taking over from Steve Letarte as the crew chief of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy. Letarte will work as a television analyst next season.
The Cope move should be a seamless transition, as he now serves as crew chief of the part-time No. 5 JR Motorsports entry, which already has three Nationwide victories this season.
Elliott leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings by 10 points over teammate Regan Smith with 11 races to go. Ives and Cope will finish out the season in their current respective roles.
"It became clear rather quickly that the absolute best option for Chase and the NAPA team next year is already in this building," general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said in a release issued by the team on Monday. "Ernie builds fast cars, has a good rapport with Chase, and is familiar with the inner-workings of our company. Hopefully that will create a seamless transition at the end of the year, and the No. 9 team will continue its championship form right into 2015."
A native of Spanaway, Wash., Cope has more than 12 years experience as a NASCAR crew chief. He joined JR Motorsports prior to 2014 to spearhead its part-time entry driven primarily by Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, and team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Three of Cope’s 12 career victories have come this year, as Harvick drove to wins at Richmond and Kentucky while Kahne was victorious at Daytona. Harvick has been the driver in 10 of Cope’s 12 wins, starting in 2009.
The team has not selected a crew chief for the No. 5 team for next year.