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Denny Hamlin's new crew chief: The man who just led Tony Stewart to the NASCAR championship -- Darian Grubb

  Championship night, November 20th: Tony Stewart (R) and crew chief Darian Grubb.  Now Grubb will head Denny Hamlin's NASCAR team in 2012 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   In what looks like a major coup for Toyota and Joe Gibbs' three-team NASCAR operation, Gibbs has signed Darian Grubb to run Denny Hamlin's team in 2012.
   Grubb, who led Chevy's Tony Stewart to five Sprint Cup tour wins in the season's final 10 races, and thus to the NASCAR championship, has been one of the sport's top crew chiefs ever since the opening days of the 2006 season,when Grubb, subbing for Chad Knaus, crewed Jimmie Johnson to victory in the Daytona 500.

   However, after three seasons with Stewart, Grubb got word early this fall that Stewart didn't want him back for next season, a rather stunning development. Grubb responded with one of the sport's epic performances, in which he and Stewart beat Ford's Carl Edwards for the title, in a battle that went down to the final miles of the final race.
   Why Chevrolet would let a crew chief like Grubb get away is unclear. Team owner Rick Hendrick said he had no crew chief openings but did offer Grubb a job somewhere else, unspecified, in the operation.
   Grubb and Hamlin have only up to go, after Hamlin's disappointing season, in which he won only once and then faded in the chase.
   Grubb and Stewart won 11 times together in their three years, with 22 top-fives and 59 top-10s in 108 races.
   Gibbs, whose three teams all struggled at times in 2011 (highlighted by Kyle Busch's four wins), now has to figure out what next for crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who has been long-rumored to be interested in a job with Stewart, the man he led to two NASCAR championships during their 10 seasons together.
   Gibbs called Grubb "a great addition," pointing out "obviously he has proven the ability to guide a team to a championship."
   But Gibbs is setting the bar high for Grubb, anticipating a strong run for the 2012 Cup championship with Hamlin.
   Grubb, whose analytical engineering style of running a team may have chaffed on the free-wheeling Stewart, may find a more willing driver in Hamlin. "The chance to work with Denny is something I'm excited about," Grubb says.
   But despite all the plusses the Gibbs operation would seem to have going for it, this past season was marred by numerous technical issues, including blown engines.
   And simply putting a new man atop the box probably won't solve that.
   Nevertheless Grubb, who does remember have the Hendrick operation for comparison, says he's optimistic "about this opportunity....There is no question about the level of support you get here."


    Ninth just isn't good enough for Denny Hamlin, boss Joe Gibbs says. So they've hired Darian Grubb to run Hamlin's Toyota team. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

You finished off by

You finished off by commenting on "numerous technical issues, including blown engines, and the man atop the box won't fix that" ... The 2012 engines will be coming from Toyota Racing Development won't they? I am a chevy fan but I thought that the announcers stated that TRD had few, if any, engine failures in 2011.

Why does Chevrolet allow JGR

Why does Chevrolet allow JGR to get over like they do? First it was the switch from Chev to Toyota during the same year that JGR was testing the "new" R07 engine, I believe? Toyota engine sucked then, "voila" in come JGR, with Chev know-how, the following year and Toyota was a threat to win every race. What corporate sense does that make? Now, you have a Chev man, with wins with ONLY Hendrick/Chev skills, engineering expertise heading to the Rising Sun with Toyota. I'm sure Darian is going to bring some of his Hendrick's Heads over to JGR whether they're reject crew members from the #48 camp, engineers, etc.
Bottom line, Chevrolet should have open up the wallet to find "something" for Darian, even if it's to create a position like Director Of NASCAR Racing/Chev. Division. Something to keep everything in-house.

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