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The Backstretch Blog: A Winning Pair

There's two things you know about me if you read this blog on a regular basis. First, I'm a Denny Hamlin fan. I don't talk about it a lot, I mean I am a professional reporter. But all of us, whether we admit it or not have our favorites. We are, after all human. Second, I am a big believer that the key to winning a championship is the crew chief. I mean all the cars at the top teams are top flight, all the drivers can drive. In today's NASCAR winning a championship has become more and more about making critical calls. Just ask Tony Stewart.

As a Denny Hamlin fan I was not, at first excited, about the separation from Mike Ford. He was, after all the crew chief that got my driver with in a blink of the championship. But, that lasted all of about a minute when I realized who was coming in. With all due respect to Ford, who I really like as a crew chief, Darian Grubb is the master of strategy. Something he proved en-route to winning a championship with Stewart one year ago. He didn't miss a beat with the move to Hamlin's pit box. And he put his talents on display again in Sunday's win at Phoenix.

"Obviously he comes in a with a lot of knowledge," said Hamlin. "that's the biggest thing that I've noticed is how tuned he is with the race team, and obviously we've got everyone behind us within our 11 team, and JGR right now believing in the thought process that Darian has."

The match on paper should be one made in heaven for Joe Gibbs racing. The two have a lot in common and their communication styles during the race are a lot a like. And it's hard to believe, given the teams early success, that they believe there is still a lot of room to grow.

"It's still a learning process between me and Darian," said Hamlin. "The communication has still got a long way to go, and he's going to have to figure out my measurements and all that stuff of how much he needs to work on the car.  But to have the success this early just tells me that once we get things down pat, it's going to be pretty good. "

And the ace in the hole for the team could be this. Both Hamlin and Grubb seem to driven by a sense of vindication. Hamlin for the championship he let slip away, and Grubb by the championship team that let him slip away.

"I guess you could say it is a little bit of vindication, but I really don't think that way," said Grubb. "I try to just think the high road all the time.  I feel like I came into a very good situation."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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