Darian Grubb (Terry Renna/AP)

Amid the hugs and tears of winning NASCAR‘s Sprint Cup championship Sunday night at Homestead Motor Speedway in Florida hung a bittersweet reality for Floyd County native Darian Grubb.

The crew chief for Tony Stewart‘s incredible surge towards the title learned a month ago that he would be out of a job as soon as the season ended.

“It was a little tough and strained, but it honestly probably made the guys rally around a little more,” Grubb told The Associated Press after the race.”

Stewart struggled early in the season this year and fired his competition director halfway through the year. He wasn’t happy and said the team didn’t deserve to be in the chase for the title after it barely made the field just before the 10-race sprint for the championship.

Even after a gutsy gamble by Grubb late in the race put Stewart back into contention after he fell back and after a race that everyone called “one for the NASCAR history books,” the owner-driver wouldn’t say for sure if Grubb would be back.

“I know what his status is for the rest of the night: I’m going to get him drunk,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of things in the off season and a lot of decisions that have to be made.”

Grubb helmed a startup racing team that made the championship chase for all three years of its existence and won the title in the third year.  To accomplish that and still face the prospect of getting fired highlights the cutthroat nature of professional stock car racing.

Grubb could have thought “screw it” and just gone through the motions for the rest of the season but the fact that he put his heart and soul into pulling the team together and guiding Stewart to a third championship speaks volumes about his class and professionalism.

Let’s hope Stewart and his partner at Stewart-Hass Racing take a second look at their decision of a month ago.  If they don’t, another team will almost surely profit from Stewart’s stupidity.

(UPDATE, Nov. 28, 2011: Stewart-Hass Racing made it official. Grubb is out. Steve Addington is Tony Stewart’s new crew chief.  Addington was Kyle Bush’s crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing and later ran the show for Kurt Bush at Penske Racing.)

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