Darian Grubb has secured a new crew chief role with another top organisation, with the announcement that he will be taking over the running of the #11 team at Joe Gibbs Racing, working with driver Denny Hamlin.
“I'm thrilled to join Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Grubb, adding: “The chance to work with Denny is something I'm excited about."
Grubb was fired by his former boss, team owner/driver Tony Stewart, in the middle of the Chase - before then going on to help steer Stewart to the 2011 Sprint Cup championship. Stewart has since announced that Steve Addington - Kurt Busch's former crew chief on the #22 - will be in charge of Stewart's #14 team for the defence of their title in 2012.
For Grubb, it will be his first major role outside of the Hendrick Motorsports family of teams. Rick Hendrick had said that he had been keen to have Grubb return to the fold in an engineering or management capacity, but that he had no crew chief slots available for him. Grubb has clearly decided that he's not done with the cut and thrust of helming a car crew just yet.
"Obviously, he has proven the ability to guide a team to a championship," said his new boss, team owner Joe Gibbs. "We are excited to have him working with Denny toward achieving that goal here at Joe Gibbs Racing."
Grubb, 36, clearly felt that he had landed on his feet with his new team. "When you sit down with Joe and JD Gibbs you can't help but be excited about this opportunity and the team aspects of JGR," he said. "There is no question about the level of support you get here and I'm looking forward to working with everyone across the entire organization."
JGR had announced on Tuesday that Hamlin's former crew chief, Mike Ford, was being released by the team after a disappointing and lacklustre season for the driver. Despite making the Chase play-offs, Hamlin was never a factor in the title battle as he was in 2010 when he led Jimmie Johnson in the points going into the final race of the season. This year by contrast Hamlin was able to claim only one race win, at Michigan in the summer.
The decision to shake things up in the #11 camp and release Ford earlier in the week had not been a surprise, although nor had it been a foregone conclusion. "I'm kind of relieved," Ford was quoted as saying by the Associated Press
wire service. "It had been dragging on for so long, I'm actually relieved there's finally a resolution."
"Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing appreciates what Mike has done for our organization over the past six seasons as crew chief with our No. 11 team," Gibbs himself said in a press release on Tuesday. "We've decided it was best to make a change with the team now to allow Mike the opportunity to pursue other opportunities."
Ford suggested that his “no compromise” attitude to his role had contributed to his exit from JGR. “I can be very brash," he admitted. "You step on toes along the way. Some of it is very deliberate. It's not popular throughout a shop where you have to have harmony. It basically comes down to I didn't get along well with certain individuals."
Ford, 42, has worked as a crew chief in the sport since 2000 - six and a half years of them with Hamlin - and he has claimed a share of 21 victories. It's unclear whether he has any prospects for a new job in NASCAR, talking instead of "maybe venturing into something else and starting over" and simply commenting: “I wish they would have given me a head's up instead of [leaving it] this late."
Among the posts still to be filled are a new crew chief for the #22 once a replacement for former driver Kurt Busch is signed up, and also a crew chief for Danica Patrick's #10 car at Stewart-Haas Racing for her limited run of ten Sprint Cup appearances.Pattie joins MWR as Bowyer's crew chief
Another crew chief position was also confirmed this week, when Brian Pattie was announced as Clint Bowyer's crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Bowyer is moving to MWR after eight years with Richard Childress Racing, and the team have signed up the experienced Pattie to make his new venture a successful one from the get-go.
“I'm really happy to get him,” said Bowyer. “He's somebody I got a lot of confidence in. He's a young, aggressive crew chief. His work ethic is very good, and I think that's why he gets the results that he does."
Pattie was most recently crew chief on the #42 car at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing working with driver Juan Montoya, but he was moved aside by EGR in the summer after a lacklustre season for the Colombian. Jim Pohlman took over on an interim basis but there was little upturn in Montoya's showing, and the #42 has now found a new crew chief for 2012 in the form of Chris Heroy, former team engineer at Hendrick Motorsports.
Pattie's existing contract with EGR finally expired at the end of November allowing him to take up the new offer from MWR. Pattie insisted that there were no bad feelings with his old team and he admitted that: "It was a time for a change over there to try to stimulate some performance ... My contract was up this year anyways, so it was better to start building a team midyear."
As for his own new challenge, Pattie said that the decision to move to MWR "was basically a no-brainer for me ... There's been a lot of phone calls and I talked to Clint, and I felt this was the best opportunity for myself to showcase my talents and help build a team and help them move forward the best that I can."Blickensderfer moves to RCR at crew chief for Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton will have his #31 team led by Drew Blickensderfer in 2012, after Richard Childress Racing announced at the end of November that they had succeeded in tempting Blickensderfer from Roush Fenway Racing where he had been crew chief for David Ragan on the #6.
With that car team looking set to be wound up - and Ragan in the frame to move to Penske Racing and take over the #22 vacated by Kurt Busch - Blickensderfer has opted to take up the chance to work with Burton next season.
"I was around Jeff briefly at RFR and always admired and liked him,” said Blickensderfer. “He's a very talented driver and I look forward to working him and the rest of the #31 team in 2012."
Burton started 2011 with Todd Berrier as his crew chief, but Berrier was released in July and Luke Lambert took over for the remainder of the season on an interim basis until a long term appointment could be made.
"Drew is a strong leader and will be a great complement to the [team]," said Richard Childress. "He's won some big races, including the 2009 Daytona 500, his first race as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief. There's every reason to believe the combination of Jeff and Drew will be a successful one."
RCR had earlier announced that Kevin Harvick's crew chief Gil Martin
was to be replaced by Shane Wilson, but the team's third driver Paul Menard will retain his existing crew chief, Slugger Labbe, for 2012.