Noah Gragson smiles alongside No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives on the qualifying grid at Talladega Superspeedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Studios

No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives on Bowman: ‘He’s determined to be back’

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Crew chief Greg Ives said Saturday that he was hopeful for Alex Bowman’s quick return to the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after sitting out this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race with concussion symptoms.

Ives, in his final season atop the No. 48 pit box, said he was optimistic Bowman could be back behind the wheel for the Oct. 9 event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course. Xfinity Series regular Noah Gragson is set to fill in for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Talladega Superspeedway.

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“I feel like, you know, he’s determined to be back. He wants to come and finish the season off strong,” Ives said Saturday before Cup Series qualifying. “We had a good month, good momentum going in the first round and have a little setback here. But I feel like he’s gonna do everything he can to make sure he’s back. And right now, that’s 100% my goal for him is to be at the Roval.”

Bowman and his team announced Thursday that he would sit out at Talladega, and NASCAR officials confirmed the 29-year-old driver was granted a medical waiver to retain his playoff eligibility. His 29th-place finish at Texas following a wreck and his Talladega absence will place him in a virtual must-win spot to advance at Charlotte’s Roval.

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Ives said he talked Friday with NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller and other competition officials to discuss safety issues, particularly driver compartment security and rigidity concerns with the rear of the Next Gen car that debuted this year. Officials plan to test a revised rear clip and bumper area at an Ohio crash-test facility Wednesday; if it performs as expected, changes could be implemented for 2023.

Ives said he hopes to be a conduit for positive change in that area.

“Ultimately, I said I was gonna help improve it, and you’ve got to act on those words,” Ives said. “And so, 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 type of things and just have that dialogue open. And ultimately, that’s the number one thing is 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.”

In the interim, the No. 48 team is prepping for a weekend with Gragson, a part-timer on the Cup Series side but the current title favorite in the Xfinity Series, riding a historic four-race win streak in his bid for that circuit’s championship. Gragson has made 13 Cup Series starts this season, splitting time between Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet and Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 Chevy. His last time out at a superspeedway, Gragson placed a career-best fifth for the family-owned Beard operation.

After qualifying seventh for Sunday’s 500-miler, Gragson described a “kind of chaotic last 48 hours” as he adjusted to his substitute role with a new team. Ives said from his point of view, Gragson has adapted in a hurry, and that he’ll try to gather as many points as possible for the No. 48’s bid for a team owners’ title.

“I mean, he was quickly to the shop, and we were able to go through our driver debrief and everything with him and try to understand what he needed inside the race car,” Ives said, “but I don’t care if you’re a 5-year-old go-kart racer or a 50-year-old race car driver, a veteran, you’re ready for these moments whenever they arise and ultimately that’s what a true competitor is. They’re ready for the moment. They may have the nerves, but they’re not going to show it.”