Blog Entry

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:25 pm

It didn't take long for Darian Grubb (right) to taste success with Denny Hamlin, winning Sunday at Phoenix. (AP)

Did Tony Stewart make a mistake dropping Darian Grubb as crew chief after winning 2011 title?

Pete Pistone

We'll probably never know the whole story of why Stewart decided to make a crew chief change. While Darian Grubb is one of the most talented in the sport, Stewart didn't downgrade by bringing Steve Addington into the fold.

Let's face it, the driver-crew chief role is as much about chemistry and building relationships as it is anything. While Grubb is as adept at setting up a car and calling a race as they come, maybe there was something not clicking exactly the right way between the duo. Addington is equally talented at the nuts and bolts of the job and his personality seems to mirror Stewart's. They've both said many times they are "cut from the same cloth," guys who grew up short track racing and worked their way to the top level of the sport. They share an old school racer's mentality and Stewart appears quite comfortable working with and hanging out with Addington.

Grubb may have already made it into the victory column first and I have no doubt he'll be successful with Hamlin at JGR. But Stewart won't suffer with Addington at the helm and whatever the behind the scenes reasoning might be of his parting ways with Grubb, the bottom line is all about comfort and chemistry. Stewart and Addington have that together and then some.

Brian De Los Santos

In a word -- yes.

Now as the story goes, the decision to part ways with Grubb came prior to the amazing streak they went on en route to the Sprint Cup championship. At the time the call was made in early October, it was probably the right move. For whatever reason, the 2011 regular season was a struggle for the 14 team with Stewart making the Chase by the skin of his teeth. Entering the Chase, I for one, didn't expect Stewart to be much of a factor.

Stewart surprised just about everybody winning the first two races of the Chase. But then a couple subpar races followed that strong start and Stewart decided it just wasn't working out. Thus, entering the second half of the Chase, Grubb was basically a lame duck crew chief. But he soldiered on, and despite the distraction, helped Stewart to victory in three of the final four races and the title. The finale at Homestead was especially a thing of beauty.

Not even five wins in 10 races was enough for Stewart to reconsider. Which seems strange to me. Clearly Grubb proved he could get the job done in the crunch. Can Stewart win with Steve Addington as his crew chief? Probably. But there's something to be said for continuity. After a finishing run that few outside of Chad Knaus-Jimmie Johnson have been able to muster, Stewart may find that cutting Grubb loose may not have been such a good idea, especially if Grubb and his new driver Denny Hamlin continue to knock out wins.

More NASCAR coverage


Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: March 10, 2012 8:21 am

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Stewart didn't go on the streak that won him the Sprint Cup Championship until after he announced that Grubb wouldn't be coming back.  This tells me that Grubb either needed a kick in the pants or that ne needed to be taken down a peg.  Either way, Stewart wasn't winning with status quo.  He really had to make the decision and it worked out great for both him and Grubb.  

I would imagine that there's a lot more to the story than we'll ever know.  I"m also pretty sure that if Stewart hadn't made the move, they wouldn't have won the Chase last year.

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: March 8, 2012 1:57 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

I'm with Pete on this one.  I think this was a rare win-win situation for everyone involved - except maybe for a few hard feelings between Stewart and Grubb, nothing that a couple of wins couldn't make better.

Being a Tony Stewart fan for many years and appreciating the role the entire JGR organization has played in Tony's career, not to mention what an all-around fantastic guy Joe Gibbs is himself, if Tony (and now Ryan, too) isn't in the Winner's Circle, then I sincerely hope it's a JGR car (yes, even if it is Kyle).  

I think Tony has always enjoyed working with Zippy and have often wondered if the only way JGR would part with him was if he could have Grubb in return.  Since the first 26 races were not looking a that stellar for the 14 team, I was figuring those talks had already been underway and maybe even already agreed to by all parties - which would explain why even after going on and winning 5 of the 10 chase races and the Championship it didn't change the decision for Stewart and Grubb to part ways. 

Tony has proved that unlike a guy like Jimmie Johnson, he can win races and championships with various crew chiefs, so for Tony to move on with another top tier crew chief, not to mention having Zippy readily available to step in should Addington not be able to handle the duties, then this was a no-brainer for all involved.

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: March 7, 2012 5:56 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Smoke will prevail with Addington at the helm. Get the fourth title trophy shined up for #14

Since: Apr 5, 2007
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:50 am

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Quite simply, this was all put into motion way before the 14 team went on their legendary tear late in the chase. I'm pretty sure Addington had about had his fill of Kurt Busch sometime about mid-season and put out feelers that he was available. With the 14 struggling, Tony probably jumped at the chance to get him and the deal was done before Charlotte. What happened after that was unprecidented with both Smoke and Grubb raising their game to ridiculous levels. Ultimately, it did land Grubb a pretty sweet ride with Gibbs. I can't see where anyone is going to come out the loser in all of this.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:02 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Stewart won 3 titles in 10 years in Nascar, and another in the IRL.  He knows how to win regardless of who is crew chief.  He owns his own team and has won a title after a very successful stint with Joe Gibbs Racing.  I think he knows how to make the right decisions, because in the end, that's his car out on the track, his legacy.

True chemistry is needed with a crew cheif, but Tony has shown time and time again that his decisions are typically sound in their logic and reason.

Since: Jan 23, 2009
Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:07 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Sure...on the surface it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to fire a Championship-winning crew chief.  But maybe there was a lot of conflict/chemistry problems when the cameras weren't rolling.  The story (and Tony) claim the decision to fire Grubb was made halfway through last season, but Stewart could have just as easily revoked his decision and brought Grubb back after they went on that late-season tear and won the whole thing.

Grubb obviously knows his stuff (as does Tony and Denny), so I think that Denny and Tony are as dangerous as they ever have been.  Denny because he has got a chip on his shoulder after last season's poor performance (contrasted to 2010's nearly Champsionship-winning season), and Tony because he won it all last year and is trying to repeat.

Personally I will be rooting for Denny since he seems like a genuinely cool guy and hasn't won a Championship before.

Since: Sep 11, 2010
Posted on: March 6, 2012 8:09 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

Denny will win the Cup and Tony won't make the chase. Book it.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or