There’s something to be said about going out on top, but this probably wasn’t the way Darian Grubb thought a possible departure from Stewart-Haas Racing would happen.
The crew chief for Tony Stewart was informed during the Chase – six weeks prior to the end of the year – that he wouldn’t be retained after the season. Grubb could have sulked and just cruised through the final six weeks.
Instead, he led Stewart and their team on a remarkable turnaround that resulted in them winning the final race of the season and the Sprint Cup championship.
With his efforts in the final six weeks, Grubb appeared to be saying to Stewart, who co-owns the team, “Get rid of me and and see how smart you’ll look when you win the championship and you fired your crew chief.”
Grubb wouldn’t gloat after the Ford 400 on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He didn’t have to. All he had to say is that he was told before the Oct. 15 race at Charlotte that he wouldn’t be back next season.
The response from media and fans was immediate. How can you win a championship one day and be unemployed the next?
Grubb admitted it was baffling but said he just continued to do his job.
And what does he do now?
“I guess we’ll start talking [to people],” he said Sunday night.
When asked about it after the race, Stewart joked that his goal was to get Grubb drunk that night and they’d talk about his future later in the week – not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Sunday night, while celebrating their first championship together and the first for Stewart-Haas Racing, would have been the perfect time for Stewart and Grubb to agree on a new deal.
But Stewart didn’t budge and commit to anything when pressed on the issue. And while Grubb indicated he’s open to talking about returning, he didn’t say he definitely wanted to come back. When asked if Stewart would now come back with an offer to stay, Grubb said, “It all depends.”
Stewart and Grubb both sounded very much like the season finale was the last race for Grubb as Stewart’s crew chief.
Stewart admits he’s all about the results and that he’s not the best motivator in the world.
Grubb, who rose through the Hendrick Motorsports stable, is confident in his abilities and doesn’t need motivation from a driver who gets out of his car and says his team stinks and doesn’t deserve to be in the Chase, as Stewart did following the August race at Michigan. To Grubb, that had to be a sign of disrespect, especially considering everything Grubb has done, including leaving Hendrick to help Stewart build a team at Stewart-Haas.
If they get back together, Grubb and Stewart will act like it wasn’t that big of a deal, that Stewart just felt he wanted a little more consistency in his cars and performance – which is exactly what he got over the final six weeks of the season.
If they don’t get back together, they’ll act like they’re still friendly. But if Grubb wins somewhere else, Stewart will feel guilty and angry at the same time – guilty for getting rid of a quality crew chief and angry at himself for not being able to get Grubb to deliver what he wanted until it was too late.