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Strategy Options Are Limited For Chase Chiefs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 16 2011

Crew chief Bob Osborne and driver Carl Edwards have doped out their strategy for Sunday's Ford 400. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – For NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chiefs Bob Osborne and Darian Grubb, their strategy for Sunday’s season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is quite simple – win the race.

With only three points separating the first place Carl Edwards and second place Tony Stewart, if one of those two drivers wins the 267-lap race on the 1.5-mile track that competitor will be the 2011 Sprint Cup champion. If Edwards finishes ahead of Stewart, he’ll break Jimmie Johnson’s five-year championship reign. However, Stewart, who already owns two Cup titles, possesses the tie- breaker since he has four victories should the points end in a deadlock.

“We are, of course, competing against the [No.] 99 for the championship, but regardless of what else happens out there, no matter where he finishes, if we can win the race, it’s a guaranteed championship for us,” said Grubb, who’s been Stewart’s crew chief since 2009 when the Indiana driver became co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. “Even if he [Edwards] finishes second and leads the most laps, we have the tie-breaker at that point with the number of wins. So knowing that, our goal going down there is to be in front. That is all that matters.

“We have nothing to lose. We can’t finish any worse than second. It’s the best we’ve ever run in the three years we built Stewart-Haas Racing into being a championship contender. All we can do is go out there and shoot for the win. We feel like we’ve already accomplished what we need to accomplish, but bringing the trophy home would definitely put the icing on the cake.”

Osborne noted it would be a much easier weekend if Edwards could run in the top 25 and clinch the title,

Tony Stewart and his crew chief, Darian Grubb, have a strategy which is similar to Edwards'. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

but, of course, that’s not the case.

“It probably will come down to winning the race could determine the championship,” said Osborne. “We do have to keep an eye on the [No.] 14 and the situation will definitely govern a lot of what we do. Push comes to shove, I’m going to make our program have the best finish possible. The goal is to win the race, so we’re going to do what we feel is best for a strategy to accomplish that goal.”

Edwards has won two of the last three Homestead races, including last year’s season finale. He also possesses the best average finish at the track, 5.7. However, he and Stewart each have two victories at the speedway and six top-10s. Stewart has competed in five more races at Homestead than Edwards – 12 to 7 – winning the first two races on the track that hosted its inaugural Cup event in 1999.

Neither crew chief has earned a Cup championship, but both have been involved in title bouts; Grubb at Hendrick Motorsports with Johnson and Osborne with Edwards in 2008 when the Missouri native finished second in the standings with nine victories. Both men possess mechanical engineering degrees. Grubb received his from Virginia Tech and Osborne from Penn State.

“I worked in my dad’s construction company growing up and have a mechanical mind,” said Grubb, who won the 2006 Daytona 500 as Johnson’s interim crew chief when NASCAR suspended Chad Knaus for illegalities on the car. “I took all my toys apart, destroyed them and put them back together, all those things. “

Initially, racing was Grubb’s hobby. After graduation, he was a product design engineer, handling aerodynamic devices among other things, for Volvo trucks. One day he placed his resume on the Internet and his hobby turned into his full-time job.

Osborne never planned on a career in racing. His sights were set on working for one of America’s three major auto manufacturers, preferably Ford. Then he became involved in some racing oriented activities in school, fell in love with the sport and deviated to NASCAR after graduation.

“I got involved in Formula SAE at Penn State, which is a collegiate program where schools compete building actual race cars and taking them to an event and competing against each other,” Osborne explained. “That was really what got me tuned into racing and got me charged up on making this a career.”

A career in a pressure-filled sport that this week, for Osborne and Grubb, has stock car racing’s most prestigious championship on the line.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 16 2011
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