Monday, October 9, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Bank of America 500 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

"When life gives you lemons" could have been the philosophy of the No. 78 team this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Given their early struggles, winning really was the only option.

Crew chief Cole Pearn talked about his frustrations.

"Yeah, it definitely didn't go the way we wanted to or the way we drew it up, but we kind of missed it a bit in qualifying and just shows you how close everything is. We weren't off by much, and all of a sudden, boom, you're 17th. Our qualifying performance has been one of our strengths this year, and it definitely wasn't this weekend.
           
"Then you go into Saturday, and after you concentrate all on qualifying, then you get rain out of nowhere, and boom, you're sitting there Saturday thinking, how are we going to prepare for this. We were off yesterday on what we thought we needed to be, and then, boom, you got no race practice.
           
"So [it was a] challenging situation for sure, but we just went through as detailed as we could and did the best job that we could, and we started the race not where we wanted to be, but we kind of had a plan how we were going to get there, and we just really worked on it a lot, more so than our norm.  We usually feel pretty confident going into the race, but we weren't at all today.
           
"At the end of the day we got the car close, but the pit crew just put us on their backs and got us up front. Once we got track position, I still don't know that we were the best car by any means, but we were able to hold it off and get to Victory Lane," Pearn said.

The win marked the team's fifth win on a 1.5-mile track this season. The playoffs feature a few more of those tracks between now and mid-November, including the championship race at Homestead. Is Pearn concerned about having similar issues as those the team suffered at Charlotte?

"... obviously this weekend was a challenge for us because we had no practice. We're a team that really uses our practice to validate our tools and then come up with a new plan for the race. We didn't have that opportunity this weekend. You know, I think from that standpoint, it's really hard to base our performance off of that. I think if we go to Kansas and all of a sudden we have a normal weekend and we go in the race and we're not as good as we need to be, then maybe we're more concerned. But I think just the kind of extreme circumstances of the weekend was a bit of a guessing game. We missed it in qualifying, but we didn't miss it by much. We were maybe a percent off on balance or something like that, and we got too loose, and then all of a sudden, boom, you're 17th.
           
"It's just a tough sport, tough competition. I mean, I know sometimes you make it look easy running good every weekend, but I'm telling you, it's not," Pearn explained.

The next track teams will visit is anything but a cookie cutter, mile and a half. It's Talladega, and Truex doesn't have the best record at restrictor-plate tracks. With the Charlotte win securing their spot in the next round, Pearn talked about he feels heading into next weekend.

"Big time. We suck. You know, I think Martin is like 0 for 100 in speedway races. I know we've had a couple ones we've got close, but man, average finish wise we're pretty terrible. For us not to have to worry about that, and it's just the randomness of what can happen. But we always feel like we're in the randomness. Definitely doesn't make you comfortable. I know everybody in the media makes a big deal about the bonus points, but we look at what happened to the 18 today, we have a day like that, and then, boom, we go to Talladega and all of a sudden we're going to Kansas sweating it. To come out of here and know we're in the spot we're in is massive, absolutely massive," Pearn explained.

Part of the team's success can be defined by Truex's relationship with Pearn and the rest of the crew. Pearn talked about how the team's has gelled in recent years.

"I mean, it's paramount. I think it's his relationship with our whole team and our whole team as a group. I mean, we're all in it together. We all sucked together in 2014, and at the end of the day we didn't get on each other. It was a time when we really struggled, and it was an opportunity for things to fall apart, and we all kind of looked each other in the ear (sic) and said, hey, man, if we get this fixed, we're confident in everybody. Even when we ran bad, Martin knew that I looked at him and had the confidence in his eyes and he looked at me and knew that I was trying and knew that I was believing in him, and at the end of the day when we came together in 2015 as a group and just the hires we made and the team that we have is, I don't know, just truly special. I look back on that winter a lot and say, 'Man, if we'd have made this decision or that decision, would we be as good today,' and it just kind of all fell together," Pearn said. 

It certainly has fallen together well. The regular-season champion still sits atop the playoff standings and is, so far, the only driver qualified for the next round. Yes, things have definitely fallen together well for the Furniture Row Racing team.

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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; 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.




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