Greg Ives is blaming himself that his driver Alex Bowman was in a position where he crashed at Texas Motor Speedway and is now dealing with concussion-like symptoms.
“It’s all about togetherness as far as I’m in the sport with NASCAR, with Goodyear, with the race teams … so ultimately, it’s my job to try to make sure my driver is put in the safest spot possible,” Ives said. “So, for me, the decisions I made probably throughout the Texas race ultimately caused a crash and [I’m] thinking that I could have done something different. That’s how I look at things. I look in the mirror before I look out into the crowd.”
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Bowman would not race this weekend. Bowman suffered a rear impact in Texas when his Chevrolet spun and backed into the outside wall.
Ives posted on Twitter in response to Bowman’s statement about not racing, “Sorry I put you in this situation. MY car, MY driver, MY responsibility.”
The situation, unfortunately, is not new to Ives — another reason he’s not taking it lightly.
“Being through this before with Dale [Earnhardt Jr. in 2016], and I talked about it a little bit on his [podcast] that I felt like his accident or concussion was put on me,” said Ives. “That’s my nature; that’s who I am. No matter what anybody else says that’s ultimately what I’m going to think, and I’m going to hope to help improve it.”
Ives knows he can’t control the future and ensure something like Bowman’s injury happens again, but he will think about what he could do differently. And again, he referenced how it was very similar to what happened to Earnhardt Jr. seven years ago.
“Just you can go back to a pit call, you can go back to what air pressure you’re running, you can go back to…everything is all related to one decision,” Ives said. “It’s not just air pressure, it’s not just camber, it’s not just the decision to maybe stay out and try to get stage points when we just had a caution. We had two cautions and three restarts on that set of tires, so maybe if I would have pitted and put four tires on and not worried about the points. Those are the things that go through my head of how I could change or understand.
“We knew that around 35 to 40 laps the tires were having some issues, and we were getting into the 30s on our tires, and maybe I needed to get a fresh set on. That’s what I’m thinking about. I can even go back to when Dale had his issue. I took two tires at Michigan, and we got in a bad situation in traffic on a restart, and that caused him to get into an accident with somebody.
“That’s me. That’s what I think about and what could I do. I’m never going to control the future, but how could I have changed it? That’s the way I think.”
Hendrick Motorsports president and general manager Jeff Andrews said Bowman was fine early in the week, and he also made a few laps in his sprint car, warming it up before Jimmie Johnson tried it out. After doing so, Bowman still felt OK, and it wasn’t until later in the week that, upon feeling bad, Bowman sought medical attention.
“I think for him, there were some signs early on in the week that at that point in time, he didn’t necessarily associate with that kind of injury,” said Andrews. “Then on into later afternoon Wednesday, early part of Thursday [he] started feeling bad, headache type things, and made the decision at that time to go seek medical opinion and advice. Once he received that recommendation was that he sit out this weekend for Talladega.”
Andrews believes NASCAR is being proactive in working on revisions to the car to address issues. But Andrews acknowledged it’s concerning to be in this situation as safety has been a major topic of conversation.
“I think they’ve got a good group put together on the driver side representing them, and NASCAR’s got a good group working on the race car to get it better,” said Andrews.
As the No. 48 team worked to adjust for Noah Gragson to replace Bowman in Sunday’s race, Ives spent time talking to NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller and senior vice president of racing innovation John Probst. In the team garage stall, the discussion also included Ives showing pieces used in the interior of the car.
“I said I was going to help improve it, and you’ve got to act on those words,” Ives said. “I reached out to Scott Miller, and not only through the process of the driver change, but I wanted to just kind of go over a few things that potentially maybe could help or what I saw or experienced with the car. Those types of things and just have that dialogue open. Ultimately that’s the No. 1 thing when you’re trying to attack a problem you want allies to help you with it, and I want to be one of those guys.”
He said a major part of the sport getting things right with the car is coming together.
“We can’t continue to think it’s one individual’s fault or one sanctioning body’s fault or one race team’s fault,” Ives said. “I think we’ve got to come together as a group of drivers, as executives, as team owners, as crew chiefs and say, ‘Hey, what can we do to help make this better?’ Understanding the problem, I think, is clear. Solving the problem is where it starts to get a little cloudy and the common expense to what the right move is.
“When you have a car of this nature, development slows down quickly compared to when a race team had it. We used to cut frame rails out and cut clips off in a matter of a day and put it back together. So that’s the cumbersome part of what we’re facing right now, but I think there are ways for us to get better without a lot of expense. The time frame has to be shorter on these types of developments.”
Andrews texted with Bowman early Saturday and relayed that Bowman is doing well and getting rest. Hendrick Motorsports will follow NASCAR’s concussion protocol regarding when Bowman could return. And Ives is confident Bowman will be back before the year ends.
“Oh yeah, he’ll be back,” said Ives. “I feel like he’s determined to be back, he wants to come and finish the season off strong. We had good momentum going in the first round [of the playoffs] and have a little setback here, but I feel like he’s going to do everything he can to make sure he’s back and right now that’s 100 percent my goal for him to be at the Roval.”