Ives, 33, and Smith, 29, will spearhead JRM’s bid for a 2013 championship in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Smith was victorious in his JR Motorsports debut Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, driving the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet to a win in the season finale. The win was Smith’s first in 103 series starts and the company’s 10th.
“Regan’s win on Saturday and the announcement of Greg’s hiring today are huge momentum boosts for this company going into the off-season,” said owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. “Greg comes highly regarded. He has been a huge part of the 48 team’s success, and this is a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet as a crew chief. The partnership between JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports gives us the opportunity to help employees advance their careers while still keeping them in the family, so to speak.”
The addition of Ives cements a key piece of the puzzle for 2013 as JR Motorsports continues to streamline its race program. Following a rigorous push to fund two full-time teams, Earnhardt Miller said the company now is preparing for the likelihood of one full-time team in 2013 with Smith and Ives, and one part-time team with Earnhardt Jr. and select drivers. Smith’s No. 5 Chevrolet will carry TaxSlayer.com as its primary sponsor for a majority of the events.
“With the final race of the season now in the books, the 2013 season has begun,” Earnhardt Miller said. “Our goal is always to field two full-time teams – and that could still happen next year with other potential opportunities – but what we have right now is a strong team with Regan and Greg that will compete for a championship, and a part-time team with Dale Jr. that will compete for wins. Our focus is to streamline our company and equip those teams with everything they need to compete at a high level.”
Until now, Ives has spent all nine years of his NASCAR career at Hendrick Motorsports. A native of Bark River, Mich., and a graduate of Michigan Technological University, Ives began as a mechanic in the then 24/48 (now 48/88) shop in 2004 before moving into an engineering role on the No. 48 team in 2006. That was the same year Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus won their first of five consecutive Sprint Cup championships. In seven years with the No. 48 team, Ives took part in 42 wins, 113 Top-5s and 21 poles.
“Whether I realized it or not, each of my nine years at Hendrick Motorsports were preparing me for this role,” said Ives. “I have always aspired to be a crew chief, but it couldn’t have happened without Hendrick Motorsports recognizing my goals early and giving me opportunities to ultimately reach them. And it doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by people like Rick Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire 48/88 shop. They are the best in the sport – not just as racers but as people – and I plan to carry that experience with me to JR Motorsports.”