Hamlin Shines In The Valley Of The Sun


(WOMR file photo)

Denny Hamlin has emerged from the ashes of a failed  bid for the 2010 Sprint Cup championship.  In fact, throughout the 2011 season that miserable, failed attempt haunted Hamlin and crew, and showed their inability to recover from that heartbreak!

It was quite obvious that last season the heartbreak of the 2010 season was still troubling Hamlin.  He seemed like he just could not shake the “choke syndrome” that had been haunting him throughout the entire race season!

Couple Hamlin’s 2011 season with the 2011 season that his new crew chief, Darian Grubb, endured, and you have a certain strange, weird, creepy, combination.  Remember that Tony Stewart had fired Grubb way before the Chase had started.  Thereby making Grubb a “lame duck” crew chief that put together 5 wins in the 10 race Chase!  Stewart just wasn’t feeling the love for Grubb anymore!

On Sunday, both Grubb and Hamlin were all smiles and the uncomfortableness that they both had felt throughout the 2011 race season melted away with their victory in the Subway Fresh 500!  For the driver and crew chief, those smiles that were flashed in Victory Lane were 100% authentic smiles of joy, not the plastic version that were displayed by, both Hamlin and Grubb, in their respective bad 2011 team situations.

And in Victory Lane, as he celebrated with new driver Denny Hamlin and new boss Joe Gibbs, it was clear that Grubb’s soul was on the mend.

We may never know exactly what caused that bizarre situation at the end of the 2011 season when it was revealed that Grubb had been told in by owner/driver Stewart that he would not return as his crew chief in 2012.

Tough to believe it was a job performance issue. Grubb was a highly respected car guy when he worked for Hendrick Motorsports pre-Stewart-Haas Racing.

He did a near miraculous job in the SHR launch year of 2009. Together, Stewart and Grubb won four races that season. Neither Jack Roush nor Rick Hendrick or even Gibbs won that many races in their first full seasons as owners.

Then came 2011 and magic. The team went winless in the regular season but went crazy in the Chase.

Stewart won the first two races of the playoff. He coughed in the next two races and arrived at Charlotte Motors Speedway for the fifth race of the 10-race Chase searching for answers. He would leave Charlotte searching for a new crew chief – even though he won the pole and finished eighth.

Grubb left Charlotte wondering if there was anything that could change Stewart’s mind. The answer turned out to be; nothing.

Stewart and Grubb logged top-eight finishes after the CMS race, then won at Martinsville, won at Texas, finished third at Phoenix and then won the race and the championship at Homestead in the season-finale.

And there was Grubb all during that run making all the right noises but looking a bit death row-ish. And on awards banquet week, there he was again, sitting next to the governor who would never make that job-saving call.

However, there was a call made, but not from Tony Stewart.  It was the call from Joe Gibbs Racing that eventually gave Grubb the opportunity to be paired up with Denny Hamlin for the 2012 season!  Now it appears that the Grubb-Hamlin team may just “have something for the entire Sprint Cup competitors”!

This could just be what is needed to re-energize the once competitive Denny Hamlin, and put that team on the road to a championship soon.


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