Richmond II: Stewart-Haas Racing press conference, part 1

Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference to Announce Darian Grubb as Crew Chief for Stewart SEPTEMBER 5, 2008 TONY STEWART: Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion DARIAN GRUBB: Hendrick Motorsports' Engineering ...

Stewart-Haas Racing Press Conference to Announce Darian Grubb as Crew Chief for Stewart

SEPTEMBER 5, 2008

TONY STEWART: Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion
DARIAN GRUBB: Hendrick Motorsports' Engineering Manager
    for the Nos. 5 and 88 Sprint Cup Teams
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication

MIKE ARNING: "Want to thank you for joining us this morning. It's pretty cut and dry. We have Tony Stewart, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, as well as Darian Grubb, the lead engineer of Hendrick Motorsports 5 and 88 teams. Tony, talk about why we're here today and this latest step with Stewart-Haas Racing."

TONY STEWART: "Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we hired Darian Grubb as our Office Depot/Old Spice No. 14 car crew chief for next year. And this is something that is another key step in the equation of us getting on our feet next year and getting everything pointed in the right direction. So we've got a team leader now and somebody that I feel very comfortable and confident in. I'm just excited to work with Darian. The little bit of time that we have spent together so far, I'm really excited to get things started for next year and feel like Darian is going to be a very key part of helping us grow our program to get Stewart-Haas Racing where we want it to be."

MIKE ARNING: "Darian, this is another big step in your NASCAR career, but fitting you are doing it here in Richmond (Va.). You are a Floyd (Va.) native and a graduate of Virginia Tech -- talk about this moment today."

DARIAN GRUBB: "It's a very huge moment for me, just everything I looked forward to in my life and challenges I've been presented with and being able to step up each time and just get that opportunity with Tony; the capability he has as a driver in the past championships and the future heading forward is just extremely bright and just happy going into today and to be able to do it here in Virginia is an extra bonus."

Q: For both of you, Darian, have you or are you going to talk to Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief No. 20 JGR Toyota) any about life with Tony on the racetrack, in the hauler, that sort of thing? And Tony, do you think that kind of conversation is necessary any more about you?

TONY STEWART: "Absolutely. (Laughter) I mean it's - and more so, it's about relationships, and you guys know that. I mean, you build a chemistry and that's something that Zippy and I, we had to do it from scratch starting in '99. So actually last week when we had dinner, I mentioned that to him, that I thought that would be a great idea and that - not so much that you don't have to, but just having an idea of just simple things like if you say it's a little loose or a little tight, those are things that it can take Darian and I weeks to figure out; when I say it's a little this, he needs to know exactly how much a little is to me versus a little from somebody else. Not only on the competition side, but if I'm having a bad day, how do you shorten the curve there and keep me focused on what's going on. I do think it's a very logical question and a topic that we talked about at length at dinner last week."

Q: I was thinking a little bit more about the times that you made Zippy cry.

TONY STEWART: "Yeah, I think we are through most of those parts. We are on the down side of that hill. Still, it's just like anything else, as a driver, there may be ten things that I tell Darian and the first nine may not mean anything, but that tenth one may click something that he says, 'OK, I know exactly what I've got to do now.' It's a situation now where the more information you have, the better. And it's that way as far as, you know, Zippy spending time with Darian and saying, you know, this is how we've worked together over the last 10 years and there's a lot of notes to go off of over there."

DARIAN GRUBB: "Any time you have someone that's got a 10-year year relationship, you're foolish if you don't talk to that person just to see how things go and take those comments and see what they really mean. A 10-year relationship, it's going to be hard to build that history up and you really can't create that just right off the bat. Zippy is a good guy and good friend of mine and co-worker in the garage and it's one of those things, I'm not going to have a hard time giving him a call if I have an issue or something I want to talk to him about."

Q: Darian, as I recall, when you left the 25 car, you basically said that you had preferred to be a race engineer at that point rather than the crew chief. When did you change your mind and take this opportunity with Tony? And second, given the relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas in the future with chassis and engines, how closely will you continue to work with them?

DARIAN GRUBB: "First question goes all the way back to when I did the deal with the 48 a couple years ago. It was one of those things I didn't ever look for in the next step of my career, but as soon as those opportunities come up it's just something that you can't pass up. And the opportunity here to go forward with Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing and the chance to build a championship-contending team and go out and just fight from the ground up and build something with all of these people and everything, get it built around my past history with Hendrick Motorsports; and I've been there for six years, and of course, there's going to be a lot of things that I'm going to take from that organization just to go and start building that one, because it's hard to go against Hendrick Motorsports and the way they do business. And I'm going to use that and my experience from six years to temper the way we run the Stewart Haas organization. The chassis and engine department and the support they put into it is second to none, and I'm not concerned at all and I have a lot of people there I know I can put my trust in because I've worked with them for the last six years and I won't have a problem with that at all."

Q: Talk about an engineering-based crew chief versus seat of the pants; now you have an engineering-based crew chief for the operation, how much of an engineering crew chief was Zippy and how different will it be with Darian?

TONY STEWART: "Well, we haven't worked together, so I don't know exactly how it's going to work. You look at Darian's past and what he accomplished with the 25 car and the times that he had to go over and work on the 48 car, the results are what we look at. It's not necessarily how you get to the end of the road to get to your goal. It's just the fact that he can get to the goal and, you know, that we have that confidence in him. I think with this car, it's a more engineering-type background that it seems like you have to have, anyway, and seat of the pants still doesn't hurt anything. It's practical knowledge versus book knowledge. So you know, it's a combination of the two and like Darian said, it's hard to know how it's going to work right now between us and how his style is going to be different than Greg's (Zipadelli), but at the end of the day, we've already got the major ingredient there and that's that we both have the same passion and desire to be successful winning races and winning championships. That part is something that you don't have to fix. Now how we get to that in goal is yet to be determined but we at least are focused on the same direction right now."

Q: Darian, after you won the races with Jimmie (Johnson) in 2006 when Chad (Knaus) was suspended we all assumed you had people knocking on your door and want to go move over and become a crew chief in their organization; how much of that actually happened and did you get offers in the aftermath and were you tempted to leave?

DARIAN GRUBB: "Never been tempted to leave, but yes, I have had offers. There's always been conversations going on with that, but I've never wanted to step outside of the Hendrick Motorsports organization until this opportunity came up. Just extremely excited to be able to continue my Hendrick knowledge and being able to use those chassis and engines going forward, and just keep building that organization strength outside of Hendrick Motorsports. This opportunity is just a great chance for me to be able to step out and be able to almost take off on my own and help build up the organization and surround myself with the good people that are capable of going and winning championships."

Q: Tony are you going to name a technical director, or have you surpassed your salary cap?

TONY STEWART: "I surpassed it when I signed up. I keep telling Joe Custer (General Manager, Haas-Stewart Racing) that I'm going to teach him how to spend money. No, you know, it's more right now Darian and I talking and deciding what people does he want at this point. You know, we discussed things last week while we were in Fontana, (Calif.), and I think there's a situation where you can get too many people too early. So Darian and I work really closely together right now, and try to get a game plan on what people we actually want and what positions, and evaluate where we're at over at the shop right now. So we just take it one step at a time right now and figure out what people we want."

Q: Earlier Jeff Burton talked about a matchup between driver and crew chief and how it's different for every driver or crew chief. What makes this relationship a good team?

TONY STEWART: "He's got pretty good wit and humor like we do. It didn't take long in the first meeting to figure that out. You know, like I say, when you have a common desire to win races and championships, that's the first part of it right away. But you know, just spending time together, the more time we spend together, the more we laugh, and last week, half of our dinner, we had a two-and-a-half-hour dinner; which getting me at a restaurant at two and a half hours to sit in one seat is almost a feat in itself. Probably half the dinner was as much just talking personal stuff as it was talking on the professional side, and what we were going to do, and that's how it starts. You know, you don't just walk into a room with somebody and say, hey, I'm Tony, I'm Darian and you sit down and you start working and everything clicks. It's knowing each other inside and out and having, you know, just simple things like going to dinner last week was a huge step for us to go and just get to know each other better, and you know, when we had him at the shop, just seeing the - just seeing the look on his face when he was at the shop and we were talking to him about coming over was what told me that this was going to be the right thing for us."

Q: There's been a report this week that Jay Frye may be coming to the team. Can you address that? Have you guys made an offer?

TONY STEWART: "Just like I told you last week, when we have something to announce, we'll tell you, and we're announcing our crew chief this week."

Q: We just have to ask about it when it comes up. Going back to what you said about Darian, knowing he's friends with Zippy, did Zippy recommend him and are there similarities? Do you see a little bit of Zippy with Darian?

TONY STEWART: "When we were trying to figure out who was going to be my crew chief, obviously when we got it narrowed down to who we thought was the guy, I went to Greg and said, 'What do you think?' And Greg was very high on Darian. So that was something that was important to me. I mean, if the guy that I've been with for 10 years thinks this is a good guy, then that was a huge peace of mind for me to go ahead with the next step."

Q: Just wanted to ask you about the formation of your team; how much did you use the model or the paradigm that Job Gibbs established there in terms of using that as a model for what you wanted to do, and has his presence been kind of discernable; when he's there or not there with the team; there a certain aura that he brings to the shop when he's there?

TONY STEWART: "Oh, absolutely. You're talking about a guy that no matter what professional sport he's been a part of, he's been successful with, whether it's drag racing or whether it's been the NFL or the Nationwide teams, the Cup teams. But going back to the organization, you know, that's how I've patterned, simple as my USAC teams and World of Outlaw teams, I've used a lot of the things that I learned from Joe, and I think that's the great thing with Darian and I combined, we've got a lot of experience from two different great organizations that have been very successful, and I think you can take the best of both worlds and try to work off of that. It doesn't mean that either one is better than the other necessarily but both of the organizations that we have both been with now have had pretty good track records in this sport. So we come from two sides that have a lot of knowledge and a good base to build a program off of."

Q: I think it was 2006, you came into this weekend in pretty good shape, it seemed, in the points situation, and then you ultimately missed the Chase. What was that disappointment like for you, and that realization?

TONY STEWART: "That was terrible. You know, we started off the day in the practice that we're going to have here in about an hour, and went from having a car that was pretty decent and within a tenth of where we needed to be to be the best car out there to all of a sudden crashing it and having to get a backup car out. So that kind of set the tone for the weekend and got everybody on pins and needles and then the next thing we knew in the race, we couldn't get a handle on it and just missed it. But it's a - at the time it's a feeling of disbelief, because up to that point, we had never not been in the Top-10 in points in our entire career. So you know, to miss the opportunity to run for the championship and make the Chase was something that we never dreamed as a team that we would ever be in that situation."

Q: Can you talk about the 2005 (Championship) run, just sort of look back, some key moments for you there?

TONY STEWART: "Obviously winning the Brickyard was huge. That was something that was really, really big to me, and that just took a lot of pressure off, I think from that moment on for the rest of the season of just being relaxed and confident that what we were doing was right, so I think that was a huge pivot point for us."

Q: Inaudible

TONY STEWART: "Not that I can remember. We just weren't brilliant like Jimmie was last year winning four of the last five weeks. I think we were just solid in 2005 and I don't even know - I can't even remember if we won a race in the Chase that year, but we just had a lot of consistency and I think all of us had a bad race that year that kind of evened everything out. With the exception of that, I think we were pretty solid, pretty consistent."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Hendrick Motorsports