If Grubb Departs Stewart-Haas Title Will Be Bittersweet
Less than two hours after Tony Stewart stood center stage at Homestead-Miami Speedway holding trophies for winning the Ford 400 and the Sprint Cup championship, his crew chief, Darian Grubb, addressed the media and offered a shocking revelation: Once the celebrating was over he would be unemployed.
Wait. What? Grubb gone from Stewart-Haas Racing? It‘s looks like a misprint in the headlines but in fact, it seems to be true.
Without a doubt, he’s offered a huge contribution to Stewart’s incredible five victories in the 10-race Chase to take the title. There were numerous split-second calls during the championshipt hunt that kept Stewart and Stewart-Hass Racing winning races – which was the ultimate factor for the title after Stewart tied Carl Edwards for the points lead when the checkered flag fell.
In Sunday’s race Stewart dropped like a rock after he suffered a hole in his grille that needed quick repair.
Late in the race, Stewart’s team suffered an air gun malfunction, but Grubb made a lightning fast call to change two tires instead of four to keep from derailing their efforts.
Once again, Grubb was the calm in the storm, there to save the day when the championship was slipping away.
Under Grubb’s direction, Stewart has won 11 races and a third career championship over three seasons. Stewart has made the Chase in each of those years, finishing no worse than seventh in points.
Oh yeah, and when Chad Knaus was suspended to rules violations in 2006 just prior to the Daytona 500, Grubb led Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team to the win and also the win at Las Vegas two weeks later.
Grubb’s release from SHR is pretty bizarre, to say the least. One would think that at some point during all those Chase wins that someone would have recognized the success and scheduled a meeting to talk about having Grubb stay.
"It is [baffling] to me, honestly," Grubb said. "I don't know what's going to happen. I was told early in the Chase, before Charlotte, I was not going to be here. We just kept fighting and doing everything we had to do every week.
"It did not change anything, what the outcome was going to be. We fought as if we were going to fight to win this championship and we did it."
Even when he knew his days were numbered, Grubb held his head high and performed admirably and greatly contributed to Stewart’s his third championship. It’s a testament to what a class individual is - giving his all while knowing he wasn’t wanted.
Grubb’s departure from Stewart-Hass simply doesn’t make sense. It’s stunning to think an individual who kept the team moving in a positive direction during the Chase through his morale-building comments, and expertise atop the pit box, is no longer welcome.
After all, going into the Chase in September, Stewart had all but given up his title hopes, stating his team didn’t deserve to be there they way they were running. Possibly so, but Grubb searched for what was missing, fixed the problem and heavily contributed to Stewart’s late-season surge.
After word spread that Grubb would be gone at season’s end the team worked harder and became stronger.
“Definitely, it was a little tough and strained but, honestly, it probably made the guys rally around a little more just because we all felt like we were a team to beat, and we wanted to prove that.” Grubb said. “So we just did it. Everybody went out there and kept doing their jobs, kept their head up and didn't crack anybody down.
“We may have even gotten closer as a team after that. We had a couple of excursions where we went out as a team and did some activities and had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it.”
Grubb remembered what it was like at the Concord, N.C., shop when Stewart’s comments about not being good enough for the Chase surfaced.
“About half the team took that as disappointment and half of them took it as just being mad,” Grubb said. “Because we do fight hard every week. We try to build winning race cars. It's a tough competition out there now and you are not going to have a winning car every week and it's very frustrating to all of us.
“After the middle of the season, we just kept having things stack up against us and we didn't have those good weeks. It got the best of all of us. We all had just sour attitudes and that was probably the time we just we didn't really dig in any harder, But we turned the attitude around.
“So there's no reason for us to have this sour attitude. We just kept doing what we know we can do and get fast race cars on the race track under Tony and get better - and that's what we did.”
Grubb said he’ll have to discuss with Stewart whether staying with Stewart-Haas Racing is an option. But Stewart largely danced around the subject in post race interviews.
“There’s a lot of things in the off season and decisions that have to be made,” Stewart said. “Obviously, we wanted to get through this championship battle first, and we’ll sit down as a group, obviously, this week and figure out the direction of our program.
“I know what his status is for the rest of the night. I’m going to get him drunk.”
Grubb may not be interested in a SHR deal for 2012 and beyond. His cell phone has practically melted over the past few weeks from the number of drivers and team owners who appreciate his talents.
Once the championship had been won, interest peaked among top team owners in the garage who wanted to talk.
“(Before Sunday’s race) I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, telling them, please give me the courtesy of waiting until tonight to see what we could accomplish,” Grubb said. “And now that we have done that, I guess we'll start talking, but we'll do a little celebrating first.
“Originally, I always wanted to stay within the organization. That's the reason I came here was to help build something special. I think we have done that. We made the Chase all three years and had a shot at winning the championship all three years, and now this year, being able to pull it off, we accomplished our goals and that's what we wanted to do.
“As far as timeline, I'll let you know later. We are just going to plan to celebrate, talk, see what happens from there.”
To NASCAR’s delight, the 2011 season was capped by the closest championship battle in the sanction’s 63-year history.
But Grubb’s apparent departure after such a magical Chase run gives it a bittersweet feel.