CONCORD, N.C. – This weekend, Darian Grubb takes over as the No. 5 team crew chief for the first of the final nine races of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Grubb last served as a crew chief in the 2015 season at Joe Gibbs Racing before rejoining Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 to oversee race car manufacturing as vehicle production director.
He doesn’t see the transition back to crew chief as a big leap.
“Everything has changed now with the stage racing and the new playoffs system and everything else, but you’re still doing the same job,” he explained. “You’re still racing cars against 39 of the best competitors there are in the world. So, it’s the same job. And when you get to the racetrack, it’s all about performance and speed.”
Recently promoted to director of competition systems, Grubb is excited about the opportunity to climb back atop a pit box.
“Absolutely – stepping into a playoff environment with Kasey (Kahne) and the No. 5 car, being in the playoffs, it’s kind of the dream come true,” he said. “You’re stepping into a team that’s ready and they’re already in the playoffs. So, now we’re looking for performance and winning and moving onto that next round.”
Grubb, 41, led Tony Stewart to the 2011 Cup championship and has posted 23 total victories in the series, which rank him third among active full-time crew chiefs, behind only teammate Chad Knaus (81 wins) and Todd Parrott (31 wins). He has recorded 18 pole positions, 72 top-five finishes and 130 top-10s in his career.
He said returning to a crew chief role is a little like riding a bicycle, and it helps that he’s familiar with the No. 5 team he is now leading.
“It’s been pretty seamless for me because I’ve been on that truck traveling on the road the majority of this last year-and-a-half,” he explained. “So, I know most of the guys and feel real comfortable around them. I’ve worked with that team quite a bit in the background. So, I think it’s pretty easy for me to step in.
“But now obviously I’ve been out of the crew chief gig for now a year-and-a-half, so it’s stepping back into that routine. The game has changed now with the stage races and things like that, so I’m going to lean on the engineers quite a bit to help me get up to speed.”
He’s happy to know that his first race as No. 5 team crew chief comes at one of his best tracks – New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He has won twice there in his crew chief career, accumulating seven top-five finishes – his most at any track – along with 10 top-10s and two pole positions.
In fact, his driver earned the pole in both New Hampshire races in 2015.
“Loudon is one of the places I love to go to,” Grubb said. “I’ve run really well there in the past and so has Kasey. So, I think we can go up there and hit the ground running.”
Jumping onto a new team mid-season, Grubb said, brings both added drive and a little bit of pressure. But he expects both elements to benefit the No. 5 team.
“We’d like to thrive on that pressure,” he said.
Sunday’s race at New Hampshire is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.