Darian Grubb hopeful that 2011 title experience can help Hamlin, 11 team at Homestead

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Out of the four crew chiefs involved in this Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Darian Grubb, CC for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Denny Hamlin, is the only one that has captured a title.

Even though he was on his way out as CC for Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing, Grubb was still able to guide “Smoke” to his third Cup championship at the end of the 2011 season.

He believes there isn’t a comparison to be made between that situation and the one that he and Hamlin are in now at JGR. However, he’s hopeful that the past experience can give him an added edge as they seek to out-hustle Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman in South Florida.

“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,” he explained during today’s NASCAR teleconference.

“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.”

Also adding confidence to Grubb and the 11 team are the facts that Hamlin’s a two-time winner at Homestead and the most recent of those victories came just last fall.

“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,” he said. “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.”

In Grubb’s mind, the biggest key to this week is to keep things business as usual. It doesn’t seem possible considering the prize and the pressure that lies ahead, but to Grubb, trying to contemplate the amount of scenarios that could play out in the Championship Race is counter-productive.

“You can over-prepare and take your eye off of actually preparing for the race at hand,” he said. “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.”

In addition to talking Homestead, Grubb indicated that he would stay at JGR next season, when the team expands to four cars with the addition of Carl Edwards.

Joe Gibbs said earlier this season that crew chief changes were likely to occur going into 2015. But though his current partnership with Hamlin may come to a close, Grubb was confident enough to say he’d be back.

“We’re still working towards winning a championship, and I’m going to be here next year doing the same thing,” he said. “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.”

And what if Grubb finds himself paired up with a new driver next season?

“To me, that doesn’t matter,” he replied. “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.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.