Just eight days after one of the greatest NASCAR races ever comes one of the all-time NASCAR head-scratchers: Tony Stewart has hired Steve Addington as crew chief despite winning the Sprint Cup Series championship (and three of the final four races) with Darian Grubb.
From the outside looking in, this move seems to go directly against the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage. But when Stewart made the decision and informed Grubb he was gone, it was prior to the Charlotte race in mid-October – well before the Stewart/Grubb tandem went on their championship tear.
As such, Grubb is out and Addington – most recently the crew chief for Kurt Busch – is in as the No. 14 team's leader. He'll be charged with defending a championship he had no part of.
"I know Steve well and I know how he goes about setting up a race car," Stewart said in a statement. "My comfort level with him is already strong. He balances the technical part of our sport with the real-world experiences we get at the track, and that will allow for a smooth transition as we prepare to defend our title in 2012."
Stewart worked with Addington at Joe Gibbs Racing, when Addington was crew chief for Bobby Labonte, J.J. Yeley and later Kyle Busch.
In a statement, Addington said he and Stewart are "a lot alike and we're able to push each other." And in truth, Addington's thick skin and patience may be better suited for the volatile Stewart than Grubb was (we don't really know what went on behind the scenes to prompt this move).
"He expects a lot and he knows a lot," Addington said. "His talent behind the wheel is obvious, but his ability to motivate and get everyone to believe that whatever goal they set is attainable is something every crew chief wants, and I plan to make the most of it."
While Addington may be a great hire, it's still bizarre to see Grubb get kicked to the curb after winning a championship. His fuel-mileage strategy was instrumental in Stewart taking home the driver's third Cup title.
It's unclear what Grubb's next move will be, though Rick Hendrick said Monday he's interested in hiring Grubb as an engineer. Grubb seemed puzzled at Stewart's decision after the Homestead race, saying he "always wanted to stay with the organization."
"Darian was a very important part of the success we've had at Stewart-Haas Racing," Stewart said. "I'm very proud of everything he helped accomplish, especially this year when we all rallied to win the championship. He's a great person and I know he'll continue to be successful in this sport."