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Stewart smiles, Grubb keeps stiff upper lip at banquet

How very strange the business-end of racing can be. After going winless during the regular 26-race portion of the season, the Stewart-Haas Racing team entry driven by Tony Stewart showed enough consistency to earn a berth in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart, a hard charger in the mode of Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough and his personal boyhood hero, A. J. Foyt, made no secret of his feelings that he had not earned a spot in the chase. Throughout the season we frequently heard some very cryptic sound bites of Stewart expressing his dissatisfaction to crew chief Darian Grubb about how his car was handling.

Nevertheless, the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet was a part of the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Once the Chase got under way, wonder of wonders, Tony Stewart and

Crew Chief Darian Grubb proceeded to rewrite the Chase for the Sprint Cup record book. When the dust settled and the season’s final race at Homestead-Miami had come to a close, Stewart and Grubb had won five of the ten races in the Chase. The topper was the dramatic, final race when Stewart beat Carl Edwards in a classic duel that went down to the final lap. For Tony Stewart it was his third Cup Championship. For Crew Chief Darian Grubb it was his last day on the job.

Darian Grubb spoke for just minutes at last Thursday’s Myers Brothers Award Luncheon in Las Vegas, but the words that tumbled from the champion Crew Chief’s mouth were a good two months in the making.

Prior to October’s race at Charlotte, after winning the first two races of the Chase, Grubb learned that his tenure as Tony Stewart’s crew chief would end after the season. Then six races and three more victories later, Grubb won an improbable Sprint Cup Series Championship atop the pit box for the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. Nothing changed, Steve Addington would become Stewart’s crew chief in 2012.

That draining sequence of events framed the highlights of Thursday’s traditional Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. With emotion in his voice, Grubb thanked Stewart for the opportunity, and his friendship. During the post-event media conference, Grubb explained his feelings from the roller coaster ride.

“It’s just tough,” Grubb said. “It’s just awkward because we want to enjoy it, but we know things are changing. So we’re trying our best to enjoy the championship and everything we’ve earned and deserve and go from there.”

Stewart, who added four more awards to his expanding trophy case Thursday, continued a dream week, enjoying the spoils as guest of honor during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week.

Stewart’s smile never vanished, even as the number of photographs from Friday’s Champions Week finale crept into the hundreds. Why? For one, these were his guys and Stewart had said this finale night of Champions Week was for all his team. And two, he was having too good a time to do anything but smile.

“This is by far the most fun from start to finish of any championship week I’ve ever been part of,” Stewart said prior to Friday night’s Awards Ceremony, the official end to Champions week in Las Vegas.

The week was an eventful and memorable one for Stewart. He started the week on Tuesday with a number of photo shoots taken at famous Las Vegas landmarks from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign to the famous MGM lion at the Grand Hotel.
Wednesday began with a call from President Obama congratulating him on his impressive championship run.

On Thursday, Stewart took home four awards at the Myers Brothers Luncheon, followed by a number of fan-friendly events, including a victory lap, featuring the stars of NASCAR doing burnouts and on the Las Vegas strip.

Friday night’s awards banquet, televised on the Speed Channel, was a much improved presentation from past years, although it began at 9 p.m. and ran until 1:15 a.m. No lame comedian this year; the guest host was “Reba”, funny the last I knew she was Reba Macintyre. Also, a great performance by “Kid Rock”. Perhaps the best line of the night was Carl Edwards explaining how he was telling his wife he was determined to be a gracious loser and her comment, “Dammit, you didn’t lose.”

You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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