Right Sides Only: Notes from the Tales of the Turtles 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

The first race of the playoffs isn't the time for the average team to make mistakes and have to battle back, but the No. 78 team has proved that they are anything but average.

In Chicago, crew chief Cole Pearn would be the first person to admit that the team didn't have the best day... until they did.

"Yeah, kind of a down day there for a little bit. We were fortunate enough to overcome. The 18 was definitely a little better than us those first couple runs. We sped on pit road there that last segment.  Seemed like a lot of people were having issues with that today for whatever reason. Then we kind of battled back.
"We were lucky enough to stay on the lead lap. That was really the key there. Then we left lugs off on the next stop, had to come back, which was kind of just poor execution on our part. We should have put them back on when we were in there, but we didn't.
"We kind of took that time to make some bigger adjustments on the car that we had really kind of been not wanting to make, just to not slow the stops down. That was really where we started to pick it up, got the balance right.
"Martin did an unbelievable job driving back through the field there that second stage, got us up to third, got us in position. Pretty confident towards the end of that run that we were better than the 4 and 24, especially on the long run.
"Yeah, we were just able to have a smooth, clean execution the last stage," Pearn explained.
Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

With their win, the No. 78 team automatically transfers to the second round of the playoffs. That's a good thing because as rough as much of their afternoon was, it started out even worse.

"I told Martin before the race, 'You need to have a real good strategy to win today because I don't think we're having much practice next week.' It was kind of one of those snowball mornings in tech.  We had a small issue on the top of the splitter that kind of got dinged up when they put the nose module on. That just kind of took us a couple times to get that fixed. It was just kind of confusing because it was an odd scenario kind of what had happened.
"We had the always untimely fail of the LAS at the end after we got all that fixed. You can only get through that thing so many times. Anyway, yeah, that's the way it went. There we go. We probably have 45 minutes or so next week, I guess," Pearn said.

Several drivers have yet to figure out Chicagoland Speedway and have no wins at the track. Truex isn't one of those drivers. He won the 2016 playoff opener in Illinois and repeated with another win to kick off the 2017 road to the championship. Did Pearn think this year's win felt any different than last year's win?

"Yeah, I mean, I don't know. Yeah, last year we kind of had an up-and-down day, too. We had a tire come apart last year when we were running up front. Had to go down a lap and overcome that.
I don't know. We definitely haven't had the cleanest days when it comes to Chicago, but we have a good understanding of what we need to do to be good here. We really had to work for it this weekend. We were pretty far off when we unloaded off the truck. Swung a lot more than we normally would.
"But when you only race at some of these places once a year, it's kind of tricky. You're coming back with a new tire, new downforce rules. You haven't been here in a year, so much has changed. It takes a little bit of time to get ahold of it.

"We really worked hard last night trying to understand our problems from practice. I feel like we made the right changes and were able to get the car in the right direction for today," Pearn explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Even though he won the regular season last week, Truex was upset about how the Richmond race ended. Was his approach to the playoff opener a response to last week?

"Yeah, for sure. After last week he was like, 'I want to go to Chicago and lap the field twice.' I think he was pretty motivated this whole weekend. Even when we were struggling in practice, he kept an upbeat attitude, kept everybody calm and focused, which shows more of his leadership skills.
"I think, yeah, coming off last week, definitely motivated. I think he showed that in how he drove today," Pearn said.

Had the No. 18 team not had issues, Truex might not have won. How did Pearn feel about Busch's problems?

"That's a loaded question. I mean, I like those guys, so I don't want to wish them ill will. I was pretty happy we weren't racing them. Even when they were back in there, they were really strong, had good speed. With all those long runs, new cars would get lapped, they wouldn't be able to be in position for the Lucky Dog.
"For sure, if they would have got back on the lead lap, they were going to be a challenge. They were really good, especially early on. We didn't have much for them," Pearn said. 

Didn't have much for them? Don't look for that to be the case as the playoffs continue.

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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Tales of the Turtles 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn Right Sides Only: Notes from the Tales of the Turtles 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, September 18, 2017 Rating: 5