Stewart/Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas joined Darian Grubb – who knew from the outset of the Chase that he would not return as the team's crew chief in 2012 – at the postrace press conference.
Q: Gene, congratulations on this championship. How do you feel?
GENE HAAS: It's an awesome day. It's really hard to get to this point and it kind of leaves you speechless.
Q: This is a team that was struggling to be in the top 35 just a few years ago, but, enter Tony and his people, and now you've got a Sprint Cup Series championship. Can you talk a little about that transition and what it's meant to you?
GENE HAAS: Well, you know, I've been doing it for 10 years. It's hard. I think when you enter it, you have these expectations that you can run with the big dogs and that's a lot harder to do than you think.
But like any organization, you really do have to pay your dues. You have to spend your time – talked to an awful lot of people when we first started. You know, Tony was very thoughtful about what he told me. His words were, "I don't know why you want to get in this sport, but if you want to be in this sport, I tell you what, I'm going to help you lose as little money as possible." Those were his words of wisdom. So he partnered up with us and we went forward from there.
In racing, things don't always work. There's changes. When we first started out, it wasn't a great time to enter the sport because it was kind of somewhat in the height of its popularity – drivers were at a premium, most people in the garage don't put a lot of faith in a new team, so you have to spend your time just earning their respect.
And even that doesn't cut it. So many teams fail. People spend huge amounts of money to try to get to this point. And we just kept plugging away. I think we weren't doing that well as you pointed out. We had two cars – it's tough when you're in that bottom 35 range.
So you just make changes. And you know, thanks to Chevrolet, and Tony was ready to go beyond being a driver, and so that's how it was all born.
Q: What did you think when your people said, "We have this idea, we want Tony Stewart to own half and go from there"?
GENE HAAS: You know, Tony Stewart is a superstar, we knew that. And I had, basically as we said, back at our shop, I had the jack stands and Tony Stewart was the driver of the car and he could do that. Unfortunately, you need a wheel man. You could have the best equipment in the world but without a good wheel man, you really don't have a whole lot.
Just seemed like an opportunity. I thought Tony was a little crazy for doing it, but Tony is a little bit smarter than you think sometimes. He obviously saw some potential in what we did. He has a lot of great relationships. Like we had a lot of great relationships with Hendrick, so we had good equipment. Tony had good people. And like everything else, I mean, you know, today proves all of that right.
Q: Darian, just a terrific run you guys had in the Chase, winning five of the 10 races, and I don't think there's been a better performance under clutch circumstances than it was by the 14 team here tonight. Your thoughts about winning the championship.
DARIAN GRUBB: Five out of 10, that's pretty damn impressive, don't you think? It was just fun, honestly. We had our ups and downs with Dover and Kansas and some of the others. But the team rallied around when we had bad days and never gave up, and then Tony never gave up either. And just what he's done driving a racecar has been just extremely impressive to me. He's been the one to go three and four wide and everyone else is just scared and lifts. I think he went out and earned this championship.
Q: How does a guy who wins a championship, pulls five races out of 10 – just everything you accomplished – find himself without a job at the end of the year? The whole thing seems baffling.
DARIAN GRUBB: It is to me, honestly. I'm not sure what's going to happen. But I was told early in the Chase before Charlotte that next year I was not going to be here. We just kept fighting and doing everything we had to do every week. It did not change anything, what the outcome was going to be. We fought as if we were going to fight to win this championship, and we did it, and now we'll just see in this coming week how things change.
Q: So again, have you had any conversations with anyone else since you were given that news, and obviously, so the door is still open to remain with the Stewart-Haas organization?
DARIAN GRUBB: As far as the latter part, I'm not sure. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, telling them, please give me the courtesy of waiting until tonight to see what we could accomplish. And now that we have done that, I guess we'll start talking – but we'll do a little celebrating first.
Q: Along that same lines, are you going to start talking tomorrow? And what are your personal feelings? Do you want to stay within the organization?
DARIAN GRUBB: Originally, I always wanted to stay within the organization. That's the reason I came here was to help build something special. I think we have done that. We made the Chase all three years and had a shot at winning the championship all three years, and now this year, being able to pull it off, we accomplished our goals and that's what we wanted to do.
As far as time line, I'll let you know later. We are just going to plan to celebrate, talk, see what happens from there.
Q: You said that Tony has been the one to go three and four wide while other people are scared and they lift. He really drove that way all night it seemed tonight, and maybe the last five, six weeks, he's been like that. Did he turn it up to another level? Had you seen him drive this way before?
DARIAN GRUBB: He did it before the Chase even started, if you look back to Atlanta. I think he was talking about how good we made the car there, and he drove from 20th to third, and we didn't tell him until after the race, we didn't make a single change to the car the last three stops, just four tires and go. He went out there and did that, drove from 20th to third and I think that's one of those true moments that we realized that we can do it.
The cars are good, everyone behind him at Stewart-Haas Racing is incredible. We had really strong people behind us and we all go out there and put all of the things we have worked on all year, all three years, that's in our arsenal, Matt, all of those guys they have built speed in these cars; and the Hendrick chassis and engine has been really good, but what we do to it after we get it is even better. So we are really looking forward to thanking everybody, celebrating and enjoying it.