Monday, May 30, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from Coca-Cola 600 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

Ever heard the expression, "Everything happens for a reason?" Martin Truex Jr.'s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex most likely has. After his record-breaking win at the Coca-Cola 600, Pollex revealed her recent advice to the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota.

“I keep telling him that he had to lose all those races and that God was building his character to win the big one,” Pollex said. “This is huge for us and our family. We’ve been through so much ….”

The duo has been through a lot. Pollex has recently been declared cancer-free after battling the disease since 2014. Truex, too, has had several close calls in attempting to find Victory Lane this season. But on this Memorial Day Weekend, they were both winners.

According to crew chief Cole Pearn, that win started earlier in the week.

"It went good once the weekend kind of got rolling, but honestly, we struggled a bit off the truck and had a little bit of a rough night in the All-Star Race," he said. "We were able to work on it on Thursday and made really good gains the whole time through. I think we were only like 13th in the first round and got a little better. I think we were fifth in the second round and then got the pole, which was kind of a surprise actually for how the day had gone. 

"I felt like we had a really good plan on the race trim setup based on what we experienced in the All-Star Race, and just had a really good plan to be good in all stages of the race, and that's really what we worked hard on. It was nice to see it come together. There were some times where some other guys were obviously really strong and we were able to hold them off when they presented a challenge. Just really happy to get it done. We've led a lot of laps this year, especially on mile-and-a-halfs, and to get it done in the Coke 600 is really cool." 


Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Most teams look forward to the All-Star Race weekend coupled with the Coca-Cola 600 the following weekend because it gives them a chance to be at home rather than on the road. That isn't the case, however, for Furniture Row Racing.

Because they are one of the few teams based outside the Charlotte, North Carolina area, did Furniture Row Racing personnel travel back and forth from Denver, Colorado during every other team's at-home weeks?

"Yeah, we went back and forth," Pearn said. "I think we got home maybe 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning, but we were right back. We pretty much had one day to go over -- one day and a morning I guess to work on the 600 car before it had to come out. Now we actually came here and worked on it until about 9:00 Wednesday night at Gibbs, just trying to get the last little details and upgrades on it before we got here Thursday morning. They're busy weeks, but it was definitely a short turnaround with having to qualify on Thursday."

Actually, travel is simply a weekly occurrence for the crew. Whatever the track, the team is on the move and has learned to roll with the schedule.

"I think it shows a lot of the character of the team," Truex Jr. said. "We've got a really tight group of guys that work really well together and have a lot of confidence in each other, and it's good to see that they never give up and they just keep fighting and they work hard, so they deserve winning."

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Pearn affirmed the team's solid work ethic.

"[In] this sport you just really don't have a lot of time week-to-week to wonder the what ifs, and 'we should have done that' and 'we could have done that.' Time is of the essence, and we have a tight turnaround every week being in Denver, so just really staying focused on the task at hand and then trying to get better every week.
             
"I think that's what's got us to this point, so I think we're really fortunate, as Martin said, how good a group we have. I don't know, it's fun to be a part of really good teams, and it's really just that way.  Everybody top to bottom in our team is just as solid as I've ever hoped for. I can't remember where it was -- one of the races we led a lot of laps -- and we came in the next morning, and I've never seen such drive in our guys in our shop. If anything, it drove you to work harder. Just really proud of everybody to get the satisfaction of getting this win."

This win catapults the team into Chase territory. With Pocono on the horizon, it's a sure bet that other teams may be wondering whether the newest race winner will be the newest multiple-race winner.  Does momentum count for anything? We'll find out later this week.

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   Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

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