Sometimes the puzzle pieces fit exactly like you'd expect they would. Just weeks after guiding Tony Stewart to a Cup championship and then getting the boot, and just days after a position opened up atop Denny Hamlin's pit box, Darian Grubb is once again a crew chief.
Grubb now has one of the more enviable resumés in racing, having worked for, in succession, Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and now Joe Gibbs Racing. And he's used to performing under pressure, not just of the championship variety but of the driver-induced (and soon-to-be-unemployed) variety as well.
That trait should come in handy as he works with Hamlin, who's long been one of NASCAR's most mercurial personalities. He doesn't generally have the rage of, say, a Busch brother, but Hamlin needs constant support, particularly when not running well, and Grubb will need to add part-time psychologist to his list of crew chief duties.
Former 11 team crew chief Mike Ford often clashed with both Hamlin and JGR brass. There's also a pervasive sense that the team never really recovered from its disastrous performance in the penultimate 2010 race. There, poor strategy turned what would have been a huge lead heading into the season finale into a minuscule one, and Hamlin would go on to lose the championship to Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin drove poorly all season in 2011, and although he made the Chase, he was the barest shadow of the dominant driver he'd been in 2010.
Regardless, the hiring of Grubb is an unquestionable win for Hamlin and JGR, and it should return the 11 team to competitiveness in 2012.