Darian Grubb spoke for mere minutes at Thursday’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, but the words that tumbled from the champion crew chief’s mouth were a good two months in the making.
Prior to October’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Grubb learned that his tenure as Tony Stewart’s crew chief would end after the season. Then, six races and three victories later, Grubb won an improbable NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship atop the pit box for the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet. A few days later, the move was confirmed. Grubb was out, Steve Addington was in as Stewart’s crew chief in 2012.
That draining sequence of events framed the highlight of Thursday’s traditional NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio – Grubb’s acceptance speech as champion crew chief.
With emotion in his voice, Grubb thanked Stewart for the opportunity – and his friendship. During the post-event media availability, Grubb explained his feelings from the roller-coaster ride.
“It’s just tough,” Grubb said. “It’s just awkward because we want to enjoy it, but we know things are changing. So we’re trying our best to enjoy the championship and everything we’ve earned and deserved and go from there.”
Stewart, who filled his expanding trophy case with four more awards on Thursday, continued a dream week. Enjoying the spoils as guest of honor during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, Stewart picked up the phone on Wednesday morning to speak with President Barack Obama – calling from Air Force One.
“It is a huge honor to get a call from the President of the United States,” Stewart said. “I was more nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to hear on the phone very well, being from Air Force One, but they got great service up there. He just congratulated us on a great season. … The First Lady was giving him updates from the track, so I was really proud that he was following our sport and cared enough to call yesterday.”
At the event’s conclusion, the top-12 drivers hit The Strip for what has evolved into one of the most hotly anticipated events of Champion’s Week: the NASCAR Victory Lap. For the third consecutive year, thousands of fans lined The Strip to watch the top 12 roar down The Strip. Starting at Planet Hollywood and ending at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, celebratory burnouts smoked the closed streets of Las Vegas.
A large crowd also enjoyed a Q&A session with the top 12 at the popular NASCAR After The Lap, held at the Hard Rock. The tell-all format has gained mass appeal, as drivers show fans a more personal side.
Day 3 events ended with the presentation of the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio “Stewie Awards,” hosted by Tony Stewart, honoring the best moments of the 2011 season.
Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon:
• Myers Brothers Award: Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli
• NASCAR Foundation Track of the Year Award: Michigan International Speedway
• Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
• Buddy Shuman Award: Richard Childress
• NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award: Toyota
• Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Andy Lally
• Growth Energy American Ethanol Green Flag Restart: Matt Kenseth
• Coors Light Pole Award: Carl Edwards
• Mobil 1 Driver of the Year Award: Tony Stewart
• DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Year Award: Bob Osborne
• MOOG Chassis Part Problem Solver of the Year Award: Alan Gustafson
• O’Reilly Auto Parts Position Improvement Award: Tony Stewart
• Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award: Roush Fenway Racing No.99
• Mahle Engine Builder of the Year Award: Roush Yates Engines No. 99 (Doug Yates)
• Goodyear Gatorback Belts & Hoses Fastest Lap Award: Kyle Busch
• Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Tony Stewart
• Goodyear Tires Award: Tony Stewart
• Champion Sponsor Award: Office Depot and Mobil 1
• Champion Crew Chief: Darian Grubb
Don’t forget! Tomorrow’s (Friday, Dec. 2) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities include the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony. Starts at 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET SPEED).
The star-studded entertainment lineup for the ceremony includes country music icon Reba as host, a performance by Grammy-award winning rocker Kid Rock, as well as performances by two recent additions: up-and-coming country artist Ella Mae Bowen and Broadway sensation Jersey Boys.