Monday, September 19, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from the #TMNT400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

In the racing world, it's often said that it doesn't matter how many laps you lead as long as you lead the last one. Martin Truex Jr. may not have led the most laps in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, the opening race of The Chase at Chicagoland Speedway, but he didn't have to, because he led the final lap. With this win, Truex automatically advances to the next round and is one step closer to what could be his first championship.
For much of the race, it certainly didn't look like Truex would end his day in Victory Lane. Both he and crew chief Cole Pearn worked throughout the afternoon to fight adversity, which included a tire doing down and contact from Kevin Harvick.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"We had the inside of the right front unravel there when we were running the 48 back down for the lead. We were really fortunate we had a really good car. We were able to get back there and get the Lucky Dog, which was huge, got back on the lead lap," Pearn said. "We had the deal with the 4 (Harvick) there. Still don't know what that was about. Had some left rear damage which slowed us up for a bit. Once we got through that, the speed came back.
"I feel bad for the 24. I don't think there was any way we were going to get them. We've been on the other side of that a lot. Credit to the pit crew for getting us off pit road first there. Martin did a hell of a job on the restart."

As in previous races, tire wear became an issue. Multiple drivers saw significant wear on their tires, so when the caution flags flew, track position was secondary to getting new tires.

"I think we wanted the fresh tires no matter what," Pearn said. "We talked for a while about doing the opposite. I think with the amount of laps, the tires was going to be the right call. Nice to have faith in your pit crew, nice for them to hit it at the right time. Makes things so much easier ... You talk about all the scenarios. Obviously it's harder. As it gets down, there's less laps. If there's 10 laps to go or something like that, you have 20 laps left on the tires, it's an easier call. As much falloff as we were seeing today, it made it much easier to come and get tires."

Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images
With their automatic bid to the second round of The Chase, will the No. 78 team race any differently for the next two weeks?

"You still got to go plug away and have clean weeks. If you're fortunate enough to get wins, you keep potentially other people from getting in," Pearn said. "You still got to go and race hard for sure. It's hard to turn it off and on in this sport. We'll definitely keep plugging away.
"It's such a swing of events. That caution doesn't come out, we run second, we got to be stressed pretty hard the next two weeks. Now we breathe a little bit easier.
"I think the second round bodes really well for us. We have strong tracks in that round. Hopefully we can prepare for that and be in good shape when they come."

So far, this team is in better shape than the rest of those on the Chase grid. Who will join them in advancing to the next round? 

     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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