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Carl Edwards on Darian Grubb: We could have won title

This time last year everything was new for Carl Edwards: new manufacturer, new team, new crew chief. A year later, Edwards says he feels a lot more relaxed, feels less pressure, and knows what to expect in 2016.

CHARLOTTE – Darian Grubb won the 2011 Sprint Cup title with Tony Stewart despite being a lame-duck crew chief for the final five races.

If the breaks had gone right for his No. 19 Toyota last season, Carl Edwards believes Grubb could have done it again.

“I’m really proud of how Darian and I finished the season,” Edwards said Tuesday during the Joe Gibbs Racing stop on the NASCAR Media Tour. “I thought we performed very well. I believed we were going to have a chance at the championship, and we very well could have gotten it.

“That’s Darian Grubb. Once we get to the racetrack, we worked very well. A couple of different scenarios (in the championship cutoff race) at Phoenix, I think we could have won the championship. For us to be able to do that, I think that really says a lot about how professional Darian is.”

Edwards finished fifth in the points standings with two victories in his lone season with Grubb, who left Joe Gibbs Racing to join Hendrick Motorsports in a management role. In an interview on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s NASCAR Channel, Grubb said he was told with nine races remaining in the season that he wouldn’t return as Edwards’ crew chief.

Edwards confirmed he and Grubb had discussed his impending departure before the season ended but said it wasn’t a distraction because Grubb “is a consummate professional.

“He never quits,” Edwards said. “Actually, a few times through the year, we talked about, ‘Hey we can work on these things, our communication. He told me what he needed. I told him what I needed.

“I thought we worked really well to the very end. But we had discussed (Grubb leaving the team) a couple of times. At the end of the day, it’s (team owner Joe Gibbs) and (JGR chief operating officer) Todd Meredith and all of these guys looking at the big picture and saying, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to shake out. This is what we think is best.’

“That’s why we ended up the way we did.”

Edwards, who had driven for Roush Fenway Racing since entering NASCAR’s premier series in 2004 before joining JGR last year, took the blame for getting off to a slow start with Grubb. He had one top 10 (a 10th at Texas Motor Speedway) in his first 11 races last season before breaking through with a fuel-strategy victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I don’t think the adjustment phase was because of me and Darian,” Edwards sad. “It was me showing up with a new team, new cars, pressure ... all these things. I think it took me a while to slow down, and Darian got us the win at Charlotte. If you look after that, the stats got a lot better.”

Edwards is anticipating a much quicker start with new crew chief Dave Rogers, who worked with Denny Hamlin last year and Kyle Busch prior to that.

“I don’t think it’ll be a slow period at all,” Edwards said. “Anything can happen, but I feel a lot more comfortable and confident that this season is going to go smoothly right from the beginning.”

Rogers already was building morale in the offseason, organizing a snowmobile trip to Vermont for 20 team members.

“The whole team, we’re close, we understand how important chemistry is,” Edwards said. “Dave Rogers said from the beginning that we have to have each other’s backs (and) go into battle together. We started with an emphasis on communication and understanding one another.

“I feel we’re off to a good start, and it could be really spectacular.”