Some race teams are content with wins that give them a "feather in their cap." The No. 78 team, led by Martin Truex Jr. and his crew chief, Cole Pearn, have two wins this season, and each of those wins is considered a crown jewel.
Truex won the longest race of the year over Memorial Day weekend at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. He also won the coveted Southern 500 during Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. For many drivers, those two wins would be just as prized as the championship trophy, but with The Chase set to begin at Chicagoland Speedway in two weeks, you can bet that Truex and Pearn will do all they can to stay in the running for the biggest prize at Homestead.
"... we've still got 11 races left, and we've got Richmond next week and then into Chicago," Pearn said. "It's a lot of work and a long way to go. We've prepped all this year to try and make it to Homestead again and win the championship, so that's definitely the goal. But to win two crown jewel races like this in one season is something you'll never forget for sure, regardless of what's happened. You've got to take the highs when they're here, and then get back to work and be ready to give it hard the rest of the season."
The No. 78 team has worked hard for most of the season and has demonstrated its prowess on 1.5-mile tracks. Many of the venues in the final 10 races are intermediate tracks. Are Truex and Pearn ready for those races?
"We have a lot of great tracks that we ran really good on earlier in the year that are in the Chase," Pearn said. "We kind of had the same thing happen to us last year. We ran really good at those tracks early in the season, so we feel like we've got a real good understanding of what we need to do there.
"But at the end of the day, you still have to run the race, and you never know what's going to happen. But definitely gives you confidence that you know what you need to do, and you know the direction you need to work. I'm really hopeful that plays to our strength."
|Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs|
Pearn had the opportunity to show off his skills as a crew chief over the course of the Southern 500. Truex wasn't happy with the car's performance during a portion of the race and complained over the radio about it. He was loose, he was tight, things were horrible. How did Pearn respond?
"I don't know, you just shake your head," Pearn said. "That was the oddest thing ever because the run he was screaming like that, it was five laps later we were the fastest car on the track, so I don't really know. We had planned overhaul changes, and then we threw them out the window and didn't really touch it after that. Yeah, I think it's just a product of these rules. The cars are on edge, and this track is just really difficult to get a hold of. It's low grip. So all of a sudden you find a groove that suits your car better and then you get to running good again.
"It's really fun. I mean, all weekend you're having to think outside the box, maybe more so than the typical intermediates because you've got asymmetric corners and low grip and bumps. It's got really all the elements that really make you work on the race car," he explained.
Strategy will change again for next week's final regular season race at the low-banking, three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway. Follow @SkirtsandScuffs on Twitter for all the information you'll need to catch the race either on TV or at the track in our "TV Schedule" and "Travel Tips" columns.
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.