After he won the championship in 2011 with Tony Stewart, Darian Grubb believed he probably would be off the road by 40 to spend more time with family.
But it’s family time that partly has Grubb, 42, returning to being a full-time crew chief for the first time in three years.
Grubb, who is separated and managing custody of two young children, talked about moving from a Hendrick Motorsports executive position to crew chief for rookie William Byron on the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast.
“Actually now at this point in my life, it’s actually given me more time with my kids,” Grubb said of the move. “Before with the management job I was in, I was pretty much doing seven days a week. I was still traveling full time, coming in and running meetings on Mondays and Thursdays. It was all about when I could steal time with my kids as best I could.
“Now at least with the crew chiefing, I can hopefully take off Monday and Thursday with a normal travel day and spend time with them more. Take them to school, drop them off, pick them up. Just the normal dad things and spend time with them and still bring them to the racetrack quite a bit if I can the way the school schedule and things work out.
“For me, it’s actually a good time for me to be able to do that and go back to crew chiefing. It’s all my kids have ever known. (At) 7 weeks old, Gavin was on the road, and (at) 4 weeks old, Gabriella was on the road. This is the stability for them, stability for me.”
Grubb, who had a trial run for his return as Kasey Kahne’s crew chief in the final nine races last year, also is planning to spend less time at the shop during the week.
“Even if I’m home, I’m still working,” he said. “I’ll have my computer up and sending emails. Luckily now with the digital age we can keep up with things just not physically in the office. The more that I’m (at the shop), the more I get drug into meetings. I can actually be more productive to be home and spending time with kids. Having Gavin sit down and do homework while I’m cleaning up emails. It works out really well for me.”
Grubb is hoping it also sets an example for his team members, whose youthful makeup mirrors its 20-year-old driver.
“They see what you do with your family life and your kids, and they feed off that,” he said. If your kid’s got a recital or something they’re doing on a Tuesday afternoon, you better not miss it.
“There’s nothing I’m going to tell you that you have to get done on the push-up rig or the seven-post or anything else that’s more important than that. So as long as your workload is covered and you have the next engineer coming behind you who is smart enough to take care of that, leave at 3 o’clock and be at your kids’ recital. That’s more important in life than being here and getting that done. If you’re not training that next guy in charge to be able to do that, then you’re never going to move on.”
A veteran of 23 Cup victories, Grubb also was driven to return to being a crew chief because “the drive is still there … seeing William come in with new fire, a breath of fresh air and a whole new start.”
Byron made his debut in a Cup car during a test last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, posting some of the fastest laps in each session. The initial goal is finishing in the top 10, but Grubb believes the reigning Xfinity Series champion can win and make the playoffs as a rookie.
“He adapts very quickly,” Grubb said of Byron. “He did an incredible job the entire test. He’s a data-driven individual; he really wanted to see how he compared to Kyle Larson. He was able to adapt his style to others to see if he was better.”
On the podcast, Grubb also discusses:
–His memory of winning in his debut, the 2006 Daytona 500 with Jimmie Johnson;
–The bittersweet run to the championship with Stewart;
–The new inspection process;
–Hendrick Motorsports’ recent competition overhaul.