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November 11, 2014

Darian Grubb

JENNIE LONG:  We're now joined by Darian Grubb, crew chief of the No.11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.  Thanks for joining us today.
DARIAN GRUBB:  Thanks a lot for having me on.
JENNIE LONG:  How are you and the No.11 team preparing for the uniqueness of this weekend's season finale, and coming in as the defending race winner, does that boost your confidence at all?
DARIAN GRUBB:  Our confidence level is definitely high.  We had a good race there last year, obviously, and we had a really good test there a few weeks ago to where we were able to try a lot of the same things we did last year to see how those worked with this year's package, and so far, so good.  We thought we had decent speed at the test.  We're taking a car back down there that we've raced before, and it's even better in the wind tunnel than what we had there at the test, so we're hoping to go back with even more speed, and then preparation here at the shop is just basically the same as usual.  We're all putting all hands on deck from unloading from Phoenix this morning when the truck got back at 4:00 a.m. to getting these cars loaded for Homestead tomorrow around lunchtime to get them sent down the road.
Everybody has done a really good job up to this point at all of Joe Gibbs Racing to make sure we have everything ready, and we're hoping we're going to unload fast.

Q.  We were just talking about Kevin Harvick who was just on and wears his heart on his sleeve.  Denny sometimes is so calm if you didn't know him well you'd think he was a little aloof at times.  What is the passion that lies beneath Denny Hamlin headed into this weekend?  You two have probably sat down to lunch.  What do you find in him right now?
DARIAN GRUBB:  Honestly, he is that relaxed individual.  He knows that we just basically have to go down there and perform and hope we can out‑perform the others.  The stress and adding stress is not going to add anything to our performance, and he's matured a ton since the last time he was in a battle for the championship, and he's realizing now that being relaxed and going in there and making sure you're able to adapt to any situation that comes up is what's going to matter, just like it did this last round.
We had some pretty big problems at Phoenix and he didn't get out of control.  We made sure we managed the situation and we were able to race our way back up and get a top 5 and make our way into the Championship Round.  That's what it's all about, and his attitude has been that way.  It's more relaxed and just making sure he keeps all the guys around him relaxed and doing their jobs and see how it pans out.

Q.  And one other thing, most of the crew chiefs are saying we're going to go and do what we always do, but if you let yourself think about the strange scenarios that this Chase and this race presents, can you possibly prepare for the strange scenarios that maybe this Chase and this race present that are unique from the strange things that could happen at any other race?
DARIAN GRUBB:  I don't think you can really prepare for anything.  You can over‑prepare and take your eye off of actually preparing for the race at hand.  It's going to change multiple times through the race.  We're racing three other individuals, not anybody else as of right now.  Of course we want to go win and sit on a pole and be the fastest car all weekend because that makes our life easy, but the chances of that happening are pretty slim with the way the competition level has been lately.  So now we just know we have to out‑perform those other three competitors when the checkered flag falls.  That's all that matters.

Q.  Darian, three years ago you knew for several races that you weren't coming back as the crew chief for Tony Stewart but you held the team together and you won the championship.  This year the crew chief lineup for Joe Gibbs Racing hasn't been announced for next year, so I guess a two‑part question.  One, do you know what you're doing next year yet, and two, does this remind you at all of 2011 and has that experience helped you as you go for the title again?
DARIAN GRUBB:  It doesn't remind me of that situation at all.  We're still working towards winning a championship, and I'm going to be here next year doing the same thing.  We have had some talks internally about what next year's plans are, but there's nothing that's ready to be announced and/or we're not working towards that for next year, either.  I'm sure winning a championship with the team and stuff might have some bearing on some of those discussions and things, as well.  We're going to wait until Monday after Homestead to even think about that stuff.

Q.  All the crew chiefs in the final four are saying they want to treat this race and the days leading up to it as business as usual.  I just wonder, is that something, you say it but maybe you really can't do it?  Will you spend a lot of extra time‑‑ you just said you can't over‑prepare, but will you spend extra time creating different scenarios of who's where on the racetrack?
DARIAN GRUBB:  It really doesn't, and anybody that says it would, that means that they're not doing their preparation for their job every other week of the year.  We get paid to be the leaders of the team.  We get paid to try to win every race that's out there.  If they say they're going to do a lot of things differently, that means they're not doing their job the other 37 weeks of the season.  It is pretty much business as usual, and there's more stress and there's more involved and more on the line when it comes down to it, but if you don't have the preparation in place for every week, you're never going to be competitive.  It really is business as usual.
Now we don't have a race after Homestead, so the preparation this week is a little easier because all we have to concentrate on is Homestead.  We're not having to do setup sheets and build sheets and test plans and all these things for the other events coming up, so now it is all about Homestead, and that's really the only thing that changes is there's not an event Monday morning to think about other than trying to plan for your championship party.

Q.  Following up on the difference this week, you really don't have to win, you have to beat the other three competitors.  From your vantage point on top of the pit box as the race unfolds, how do you manage that?  What do you do differently in terms of watching the other teams, if anything?  How does that play into it?
DARIAN GRUBB:  We'll definitely monitor what's going on with the other three competitors and kind of see where they're at, what they're doing for strategy, who does two tires, four tires and stays out and what sequence they're on.  But like you said, you don't have to win, you just have to make sure you're in front of them, but you don't have to be in front of them for the whole race, you only have to be in front of them at mile 400.  That's all that matters.  You have to play your strategy from the end of the race forward and make sure you get the best possible finishing position, and then if other people take themselves out of contention with their strategies and you see something going on and that's going to help you adapt, but the situation still needs to be at mile 400 you've got to cross the start‑finish line before they do.  It doesn't matter what position you're in on the racetrack.

Q.  Of the four crew chiefs in this final race, you're the only one who's been in this position before.  Does that give you and your team any sort of advantage?
DARIAN GRUBB:  I hope so.  I mean, I feel like being in that position there running for the championship and coming in as the underdog and having to go out and win the race and perform to top level and being able to do that, even through adversity in 2011, it at least gives all my guys the confidence that they know that we can at least make it through that, no matter what the race throws at us, we should be able to adapt and make sure we can do what we have to do to perform.
The fact that we were able to win there last year means that we know how to run up front, and the car was fast, and the team works really well together.  It's still the same group of guys that are doing all that work.  Going down there, we have a lot of confidence, and I think Denny has won that race twice, I've won that race twice as a crew chief, and I've won a championship down there in similar circumstances.  The pressure shouldn't make us crack, whereas some of the other guys who don't have that experience may.
But we're all professionals and we all do this for a living.  It's what we all look forward to, so everybody is going to step up their game and work really hard to win that race or at least beating the competitors.  We've got to be ready for about everything.

Q.  Are you saying that the difference between like this year and maybe what hasn't been announced in 2011 to what has been announced, is that you and your crew guys, you know you're going to have jobs, you know that you're not wondering where you'll be come next January or February?
DARIAN GRUBB:  Exactly.  I'm not updating any résumés or anything like that.  We know we all have jobs.  There's security.  We all know for a fact that we're going to be working together within this organization, so we're going to go out and try to finish the business at hand first no matter what happens and try to win that trophy at Homestead.

Q.  Would you find it ironic at all if you were to win a title, win two championships and then be with somebody else the following year?
DARIAN GRUBB:  To me that doesn't matter.  I'm still going to do the same effort and the same work that I do every week regardless of who I'm working for.  If it's Denny again next year, we're going to try to win two in a row, and if it's for somebody else, then we're going to try to win together that way, also.  It doesn't matter to me.  I love this sport and I love my job, and I love all the guys that I work with.  FedEx Toyota team is my home for now, and that's what I plan to be working hard on.

Q.  I know that you weren't Denny's crew chief in 2010, but he went to Homestead as the points leader and he had a rough weekend from even the contenders press conference where things started unraveling for him.  How is he better prepared?  Either it's because he's already been through it and lost the championship, or maybe he's just a different person.  How do you think he's better prepared to handle the pressure of this weekend?
DARIAN GRUBB:  I think, like you said, he is just a different person.  He's matured a lot with all the issues he's gone through with losing a championship that way and being so frustrated with it and going through the slump he did the year after and realizing afterwards that his attitude has a lot to do with that slump, and then getting a fresh start in 2012, winning five races, and then we still got it kind of taken away from us by a mechanical failure at Martinsville.  But we were still contenders.  We had the speed.  If we hadn't basically given up on the championship after that Martinsville race in 2012, we would have been contenders when it all fell down at the end at Homestead, so we just had to get better finishes at Texas and Phoenix after that race to keep ourselves in it as other guys fell out.
This year's format is so much more different than everything else that you've ever competed in that now you do have a new chance on life.  Every three races it would reset, so this year we're going in, we're tied for the lead with three competitors racing for the championship.  There's nobody behind, nobody in front, and no bonus points at stake or anything else, it's just a matter of your finishing order on the racetrack.  It's a different ballgame.  He's matured a ton to realize that, and then all he's been through, too, with last year having the broken back and having his daughter Taylor and just maturing personally as an individual, he's gotten to be a better person and understands now what it's all about, not just‑‑ it's not all about him and him accumulating race wins, it's about this team and the greater good of the 400 people at Joe Gibbs Racing to make sure we bring that trophy home.

Q.  I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the pressure and how it compares to your run in 2011.  We've heard drivers talk a little bit about this playoff format and how it's messed with their heads a little bit and had them thinking about competing in ways that are outside of the field of play.  Just kind of wanted to know from a crew chief standpoint maybe how that's affected you.
DARIAN GRUBB:  It really hasn't affected us that much in the way we think other than what you see happening on the racetrack where you see guys really trying to take advantage of every little nook and cranny of the body rules, the pit stops, the performance on the racetrack, and being really, really aggressive because everything was on the line.  I think you're going to see that among the four competitors for the championship.  Whoever is going to be most aggressive and really try to make sure they're out front of the other guys may be the one that wins it, but then again, it can be just the way the Chase is laid out, too, so it could be that consistent guy that's out there and plays his cards right and he's up front at the end because he wasn't aggressive.  You never know how it's going to play out.  The stress level is higher, and we had to probably go through more ups and downs through the 10‑race Chase than in the past because it was always for one common goal at the end.  This time it was about advancing through to the next round, and then now that we've made it to the last round, there shouldn't be any more stress other than trying to bring that Sprint Cup trophy home.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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