Darian Grubb is Denny Hamlin's chief

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Darian Grubb is Denny Hamlin's new crew chief, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Friday.

"Darian is a great addition to our organization and person to lead our No. 11 FedEx team," Gibbs said in a news release. "Obviously he has proven the ability to guide a team to a championship and we are excited to have him working with Denny (Hamlin) toward achieving that goal here at Joe Gibbs Racing."

Grubb was released after leading Tony Stewart to his third Sprint Cup title this year. He will replace Mike Ford, who was released Tuesday by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Stewart said during Champion's Week in Las Vegas that the decision to release Grubb after the season was made prior to the Chase.

At the time, there didn't appear to be another championship-caliber driver with whom Grubb could be paired.

The chance to work with a championship contender such as Hamlin was one he couldn't turn down.

"I still have the competitive fire in me," Grubb said. "They definitely will be championship contenders and will be a for a long time."

Gibbs said the decision to release Ford had nothing to do with Grubb being available, but it did make the decision easier.

"Mike has done a really good job for us over the years," Gibbs said. "We were at a point where we needed to go in a different direction. As we started to have those conversations Darian came out publicly (with he was leaving SHR). Our guys started thinking about it, that it would be a really good fit."

Grubb, 36, said he hopes to be a crew chief until he's at least 40, when his son is at the T-ball age. He said the decision to go with JGR over being an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports was tough, but that he still had things to prove as a crew chief.

Grubb worked as an engineer for HMS for several years before joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He led Jimmie Johnson to two wins, including the Daytona 500, as an interim crew chief in 2006.

Hamlin finished 2010 second in points and had the lead going into the final race. He also won eight races that season.

Hamlin closed this past season ninth in points, with only one win, leading to his breakup with Ford.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.