Grubb will rebound from recent ouster

BY Larry McReynolds • November 21, 2011

Darian Grubb says he’s known for six weeks he no longer would be crew chief for Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car after Sunday — after what proved to be a championship-winning day at Homestead.

That doesn’t mean Grubb actually will leave Stewart-Haas Racing, because they still haven’t filled the competition director’s position over there, despite rumors of Grubb’s spot going to someone else.

But Grubb’s future is uncertain.

Still, I told him on Sunday evening, after the race, that he was not allowed to let any questions about 2012 interrupt the celebration of what he had just accomplished. He needs to savor the moment for a few days, because he has poured his heart and soul into the team — and it reached the pinnacle on his watch.

He had his family with him, and you could just tell how much that meant to him.

The exact reasons for Grubb’s exit — revealed after Sunday’s great triumph — remain a mystery, with Grubb saying, “It still is (baffling) to me, honestly. … I was told early on in the Chase. … I wouldn’t be here.’’

And Stewart didn’t clarify things when he said, “There’s a lot of things in the offseason and decisions that have to be made. We wanted to get through this championship battle, and then we’ll figure out (the) direction of our program.”

But don’t worry about Grubb. He will have no problems having his phone ring with multiple offers.

He was a winning crew chief before he took the leap of faith and went with Stewart’s brand-new organization at the start of the 2009 season. Under Grubb’s care, and naturally Stewart’s ability, the No. 14 car has made NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup all three years. Sunday night they won the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. What an incredible ride.

I think you have to say the race at Homestead on Sunday easily was the defining moment of Grubb’s career. The team obviously felt it had a good enough race car to win. Early in the race, crew members had to overcome the front grill getting caved in and the fender getting damaged. They gave up track position twice and fell back to 38th one time and 30th another so they could make the right repairs. Then there were pit-stop issues, especially the one late in the race when the lug nut hung up in the socket.

The really cool thing was, no one ever panicked. They knew what kind of car they had and, more important, Grubb knew what kind of race-car driver he had behind that wheel.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, when points leader Carl Edwards pitted on Lap 201, Grubb had Stewart stay out for 10 more long, agonizing laps that saw them give up 1.5 seconds a lap. Grubb knew if they could get to Lap 211, they could make the rest of the race on fuel. Luckily they got the perfect storm — literally and figuratively.

So they pitted on Lap 211 and then the rains returned on Lap 212. Even when the rains came back they still had the track position. How many times have we seen that out of the No. 14 team this season? Now sure, it bit them a couple of times earlier in the season, specifically in Phoenix and the following weekend in Las Vegas.

Now those were the negatives, but look what it did for them in Race 1 and 2 of this year’s Chase? It won them both events.

This was from the team that hadn’t won a race all year long up to that point. Then look at what they did in Martinsville in the Chase. They worked their guts out the first half of the race simply to keep from going a lap down. Again, no one panicked. They worked and worked on the car. Next thing you know, Tony Stewart is taking the checkered flag for yet another win in their incredible Chase run.

There are a lot of rumors floating out there about what Darian’s future holds. Now that the season is over, I think you will see the dominos start to fall very quickly. Just rest assured, Grubb will be fine.

Again, as I told him Sunday evening, now is not the time to worry about such things. It’s time to fully embrace and enjoy being the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief.

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