Dale Earnhardt (left) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pose together at Daytona International Speedway shortly before the elder Earnhardt's death in a last-lap accident in the 2001 Daytona 500.
One of the interesting pairings everyone will keep a keen eye on next season is Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his new crew chief Greg Ives.
As many of you know, 2014 was the last year for Steve Letarte as Dale Jr.’s crew chief. Steve is moving up to the TV booth when NBC returns to NASCAR beginning next year.
I think the challenge is going to be on Greg. Let’s face it, he has some pretty big shoes to fill because Steve was exactly the type of person and crew chief that Dale Jr. needed. Steve was very confident in himself as a crew chief, the calls he made and the strategy he wanted to do to accomplish a goal. That was exactly what Dale Jr. needed.
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Dale Jr. is a lot like his Dad was. He doesn’t need someone who isn’t confident. He doesn’t need to be asked what he thinks the race strategy should be. I know from first-hand experience that his Dad was the same way. Dale Sr. was of the mind-set of "just tell me what me to do." That was the way Steve handled Dale Jr., too.
So as long as Greg Ives can go in there, be equally as confident plus be that cheerleader that Dale Jr. needs, well things will be fine. Steve was a good leader and a good communicator who got Dale Jr. to give good feedback. Let’s be fair, Greg has to be Greg because he can’t be Steve. Like snowflakes, no two people are the same.
The other positive that these two share is that they’ve already known and worked together for the last couple years. That goes a long way instead of starting from complete scratch with a brand-new person you haven’t even met before. So I think they will be fine.
Just like any driver-crew chief combination, they will need to build their own unique chemistry and communication, but I really think they will be fine. Naturally no one really will know until we get into the trenches during a race when the heat is on, but initially I like this combination and I won’t be the least bit surprised to see them in Victory Lane in 2015.
VIDEO: Steve Letarte talks about how he’s proud of his time as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief