Darian Grubb got choked up several times during his acceptance speech of the NASCAR Champion Crew Chief Award on Thursday in Las Vegas, nearly breaking down at one point.
The crowd at the annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon gave Grubb a standing ovation for his eloquent remarks, which included a thank-you to former driver/boss Tony Stewart. The pairing won the championship, but Grubb was told halfway through the Chase he would be fired at the end of the season.
Why was Grubb so emotional in his speech?
"It's tough," he said afterward. "To win the championship, it's one of the special moments of my life; but also knowing it's coming to an end in two days, it's a tough thing. But I've already got my office cleaned out, and we're ready to get moving."
Grubb said he'll decide his future next week. He's not sure whether he'll accept another crew chief position or perhaps a management role with a yet-to-be-determined team.
But Grubb said he still didn't know exactly why he was let go in the first place.
"I wish I knew," he said. "It's a big business. It's all about performance, and obviously there was something – that wasn't communicated to me – that I wasn't doing correctly. I wish I had an opportunity to try to fix that, wish I'd had that feedback somewhere along the line.
"But obviously, we had our ups and downs through the season. We had some really tough spots where my calls were bad, some other times where the cars were bad. It's just tough – those things stack up and sometimes the emotion may play more into the decision than the actual facts."
Stewart said Thursday he and the management at Stewart-Haas Racing felt a change was necessary and added it wasn't personal toward Grubb. He cited inconsistency and missed opportunities as factors in the decision.
"We're appreciative for everything he's done; very, very grateful we were able to finish the year the way we did, obviously," Stewart said. "It's one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.
"Unfortunately, one or two wins and a championship doesn't change some of the variables we were looking at changing. Trust me, there's no major flaws with Darian, but we felt like we needed a change and we stuck with that."
Grubb will not be offered another job in the organization, such as competition director or crew chief for Danica Patrick, Stewart said.
So how was Grubb able to keep pushing forward through the last half of the Chase, even knowing he'd been fired?
"Just making sure I didn't let the team down," he said. " ... I didn't want to let those guys down, because they all worked too hard for this."
The crew chief acknowledged his championship celebration in Las Vegas was "awkward," but said he and his former team are trying to put it out of their minds. Grubb is even staying in the same hotel as the team so they can all go to dinner together.
Though there's a temptation to be bitter and want to prove Stewart wrong, Grubb said he's trying not to let those negative emotions seep into his decision-making.
"That's the hard part – you can't let those emotions be part of your deciding factor," he said. "Then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. I want to keep my integrity – I don't want to do it for spite or ill feeling. We want to go out there and win championships in the future; whether it's in a management role or a crew chief role, we'll decide next week."