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Hendrick says door open for Grubb to return

November 28, 2011, David Caraviello,

Darian Grubb may be out at Stewart-Haas Racing, but Rick Hendrick has told Tony Stewart's former crew chief that there will be a place for him at Hendrick Motorsports -- although it's unclear if Grubb would be willing to take a step down to return to the organization he once called home.

Grubb on Monday was formally released as Stewart's crew chief, making final a decision the driver/owner had made midway through this recent Chase and kept to despite the pair winning the Sprint Cup championship together. Steve Addington, formerly Kurt Busch's crew chief at Penske Racing, will replace Grubb, who had been on the box for Stewart since Stewart-Haas Racing was formed prior to the 2009 campaign.

"I hope Darian ends up back with us, and I think he would help our organization a lot. But I'm not sure if he wants to be a crew chief. We don't have that spot."


Before that, Grubb worked at Hendrick, where he was an engineer on Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team, and won two races -- including the Daytona 500 -- while regular crew chief Chad Knaus was serving a NASCAR-mandated suspension. Grubb also won the Coca-Cola 600 while working as crew chief to former Hendrick driver Casey Mears in 2007. Grubb went on to win 11 more races with Stewart, whose team uses chassis and engines supplied by Hendrick.

Hendrick said he and Grubb have talked, but that Hendrick does not currently have a crew chief position available. An engineering role, though, is there if Grubb wants it.

"I have had discussions with Darian," Hendrick said in a conference call with reporters. "When he left, we told him we'd always have a place for him if he wanted to come back. Darian is a very smart guy. I know he's entertaining a lot of offers out there. We don't have a crew chief role. We have an engineering role that we think Darian would be really good in. But at the end of the day it's got to be what Darian wants to do. I know he is close to all of our people and our guys are close to him. We'd love to have him back in the organization, but I quite honestly don't know where he's going to end up. We would like to have him, but whether or not he's going to decide he wants to be in the role we've offered him or he wants to do something somewhere else, I'm just not sure."

Hendrick shuffled three of his four crew chiefs prior to this past season, which resulted in improved efforts for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick reiterated Monday that Johnson and Knaus would remain together for next year. Kasey Kahne is joining Hendrick for the 2012 season, replacing Mark Martin in the No. 5 car, but bringing crew chief Kenny Francis along with him. That doesn't leave much room for a crew chief with a championship on his resume, something Hendrick concedes.

"Darian is a very smart guy and a very capable guy, and he will do well anywhere he goes," Hendrick said. "Whatever driver [he works with] or whatever position he's in, he's a very talented guy. And we'll just have to wait and see, but like I said before, you just can't go get a guy out of one organization and stick him in another organization and he's going to be the fix-all. I don't think that happens that way. It takes a combination of a lot of things. And the cars are so close anyway. The area for us to work in is so small with the new car, the way NASCAR's rules are written. It comes down to mainly the personalities and the communication between the engineers, the crew chiefs, the driver and the team, the chief mechanics, everybody working together.

"So I don't have any idea. I hope Darian ends up back with us, and I think he would help our organization a lot. But I'm not sure if he wants to be a crew chief. We don't have that spot. We'll just have to wait and see."