CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Joe Gibbs Racing grabbed championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb and paired him with Denny Hamlin in hopes of pushing the driver the final step toward the Sprint Cup title.
Grubb was introduced Friday as crew chief of Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota. He takes over for Mike Ford, the only crew chief Hamlin has had at NASCAR's top level.
Ford was fired earlier this week, in part because Grubb was available.
"We were at a point that we felt like we needed to just go a different direction," team president J.D. Gibbs said about Ford. "As we started to have those conversations, the Darian piece kind of came out. We looked at a lot of different options, and Mike has a lot of gifts. Without getting into too much detail, some of our conversation centered around what is the best fit for JGR long term, and we feel like this was it."
Hamlin nearly dethroned five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. But he faltered in the season finale and hasn't been the same since.
He dropped off considerably this last season, barely making the Chase. He ended the year with just one victory, a career low in top-10 finishes and he was ninth in points.
So JGR made a run at Grubb once he was formally let go by Tony Stewart a week after guiding Stewart to the championship.
Stewart had made up his mind to fire Grubb during the Chase, and five wins in the 10 races didn't change Stewart's mind.
Grubb was in high demand and had at least one other offer, as an engineer at management level for Hendrick Motorsports. But he said he wants to be a crew chief another four years and took the JGR job to chase another championship.
He said he won't be motivated by trying to upstage Stewart.
"I really don't feel like I have anything to prove other than I want to work with championship contenders," Grubb said. "I'm not going to do anything for spite, because those are all the wrong reasons. I want to do it, because I want to win a championship with Denny and all these guys.
"Right now, I still have that competitive fire in me that I feel like if I'm not in position at the top of the box being able to make those calls and the seat-of-the-pants type positions, I'd be really missing out on something."
Grubb becomes just the second crew chief of Hamlin's Cup career. He posted on Twitter he was excited to pair with Grubb.
"Excited to have Darian join the JGR/FedEx family," Hamlin posted on Twitter. "Also sad to see Mike Ford go. He is a winner."