They were able to hide their strained relationship during the Chase for the Championship, particularly in the final six races after Grubb was told he would be fired after Sunday’s race.
Stewart used his experience and guile to apply pressure on points leader Carl Edwards throughout the playoffs, but he took it to a remarkable level in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The closer he got to catching Edwards in the standings – and on the track – the harder he pushed.
And when it was clear the only way he could win his third Sprint Cup Series championship was to back up his bravado and win Sunday’s race, that’s exactly what he did.
At the same time, it was difficult for Grubb to celebrate.
While his sense of achievement – and vindication – was apparent, he knows Stewart apparently wasn’t as impressed with his contributions.
“I was told early in the Chase before Charlotte that next year I wasn’t going to be here,” Grubb said late Sunday.
“We just kept fighting and doing everything we had to do every week. It did not change anything. The outcome was going to be.”
Stewart deflected questions about Grubb after the race.
“There’s a lot of things in the off-season and a lot of decisions that have to be made and we wanted to get through this championship battle first,’’ Stewart said. “We’ll sit down as a group this week and figure out the direction of our program.”
Sources said Stewart already has picked Steve Addington, Kurt Busch’s current crew chief, as a replacement.