Family Man Bowman Wins Pole For Daytona 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2021

Alex Bowman will start the 2021 Daytona 500 from P1. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Bowman points to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and his sponsor Ally as the reason he now owns his second Daytona 500 pole and a front row starting position for a record fourth straight year. 

However, it’s that personal touch crew chief Greg Ives provides when he’s building a race team that formulates the foundation for success.

“I don’t build a team to wrench on cars. I build a team to be a family,” Ives explained. “I build a team to have heart. I think a lot of heart goes into what we do every week. Why? Because we do it 39 weeks out of the year and then we have an off-season that we do it again.

“I know when the birthdays are of every person on my team. I know their addresses, names. I know who they are personally. That’s what matters most to me. They’re not just a front-end mechanic. They’re not just a tire carrier. They’re people that I want to mentor and grow to be humans that impact life in a greater way than sports and NASCAR.”  

 Since becoming a crew chief in 2015 Ives has never had a car start lower than third in the Daytona 500. In fact, one of his cars has been on the front row for five consecutive years dating back to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2017. However, preparing for this year’s Daytona 500 was an emotionally tough task. In late November, the team lost pit crew member William “Rowdy” Harrell when he and his wife, Blakley, were killed in an auto accident while on their honeymoon in the Florida Keys.

“This off-season is probably one of the toughest ones I’ve been through, not only with the loss of my buddy Bryce, but also Rowdy and Blakley,” Ives said. “It’s been a tough deal. He’s (team owner Rick Hendrick) incredible the way he supports the teams, not only in triumph, but also in tragedy. He was gracious enough to be there not only by the family’s side, but by our side every step of the way and give us meaning to maybe something we wanted to ask questions why. 

“Rowdy is still a big part of our team, a big inspiration. Yeah, it gets emotional. It definitely does, but in this sport you have to have that emotion to succeed.” 

Ives forged through the off-season focused on winning the Daytona 500 pole because of the advantages it affords. Attaining that goal Wednesday in the first-ever Daytona 500 night qualifying session provided Hendrick Motorsports with its 14th pole for the prestigious event. It also meant Hendrick had now earned the Daytona 500 pole six of the last seven years.

Bowman provided Chevrolet with its ninth consecutive Daytona 500 pole with a 191.261-mph lap. The Arizona native, who succeeded seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Chevrolet, unseated teammate William Byron from the No. 1 starting position by 1 mph. Byron claimed the second starting position with a 190.219-mph lap. Those are the only two positions set for Sunday’s Daytona 500. The rest of the 40-car field’s starting order will be determined via qualifying races. Bowman starts on the pole for Thursday night’s first Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying race, while Byron has the pole for the second. The first qualifying race begins at 7 p.m. and will be televised on FS1. 

(Editor’s Note: Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 11 2021
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