Grubb leaves role at Hendrick to be Stewart's crew chief

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tony Stewart took a big step Friday toward upgrading the personnel at Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

Darian Grubb will move from his role as engineering manager at Hendrick Motorsports to crew chief for Stewart, the two-time Sprint Cup champion.

"This is another key step in the equation of us getting on our feet next year and getting pointed in the right direction," Stewart said from the infield media center at Richmond International Raceway. "We've got a team leader now, somebody I feel very confident and comfortable with."

Grubb's credentials are impressive. He led Jimmie Johnson to a pair of wins in 2006, including the Daytona 500, as an interim crew chief while Chad Knaus served a four-race suspension. He helped Casey Mears to his first win, the Coca-Cola 600, last season as a full-time crew chief.

He's also been an integral part of helping Dale Earnhardt Jr. to fourth place in the standings this season.

"It's a very huge moment for me, everything I've looked forward to in my life," said Grubb, a native of Floyd, Va. "Just to get the opportunity with Tony, the capability he has as a driver and past champion, the future heading forward is very bright."

Asked if Grubb should talk with Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief the past 10 years, about what it's like to work with one of the most controversial drivers in the garage, Stewart said, "Absolutely."

"Moreso, it's about relationships," Stewart said. "You build chemistry. Zippy and I had to do it from scratch starting in '99."

Stewart has yet to name a crew chief for teammate Ryan Newman. He declined to comment on whether Jay Frye, the general manager at Team Red Bull, would be coming to his team in a similar role.

"When we have something to tell you, we'll tell you," he said.

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