Stewart hires Grubb as crew chief of new NASCAR team

  • By Jenna Fryer Associated Press
  • Friday, September 5, 2008 10:37am
  • SportsSports

RICHMOND, Va. — Darian Grubb never really loved being a crew chief during his two short stints atop the pit box at Hendrick Motorsports.

When the team moved him back to an engineering job this season, he vowed not to run a race team again.

But when Tony Stewart offered him the chance to crew chief his new team next year, Grubb had a sudden change of heart. Grubb said Friday the opportunity to move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009 was so good, he simply couldn’t turn it down.

“To have the chance to build a championship contending team, and go out and fight from the ground up, and build something around with all these people … it’s everything I’ve looked forward to in my life,” Grubb said. “To be with Tony, with his capabilities as a driver and the past championships, the future heading forward is extremely bright.”

The hiring is just one of the many Stewart has planned since he acquired 50-percent ownership in the race team in July. The two-time Cup champion is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season, his 10th with the team, to strengthen one of NASCAR’s weaker organizations.

He’s already brought in two lucrative sponsors and hired Ryan Newman to drive the second car.

Now he’s got Grubb, the lead engineer at Hendrick. Grubb was crew chief in 2007 for Casey Mears, and also filled in for Chad Knaus and ran Jimmie Johnson’s team during Knaus’ four-race suspension in 2006.

Johnson won two of the four races while Grubb ran his team.

“This is something that is another key step in the equation of us getting on our feet next year and getting everything pointed in the right direction,” Stewart said. “We got a team leader now and someone I’m very confident in and comfortable with. I feel like Darian is going to be a very key part of helping us grow our program and getting Stewart-Haas Racing where we want to be.”

Stewart would not comment on any pending hires, including a report that he’s pursuing Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye to run Stewart-Haas Racing.

Grubb and Stewart said they’d like Grubb to sit down with Greg Zipadelli, who has run Stewart’s team since its 1999 inception. Stewart and Zipadelli have had a close but sometimes strained relationship as they weathered the driver’s many firestorms to win 32 races and two titles together.

Grubb said he’ll quiz Zipadelli on how to handle Stewart on and off the track.

“You are kind of foolish if you don’t,” Grubb said. “A 10-year relationship — it’s going to be hard to build that kind of history up and just re-create that right off the bat.”

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