Monday, October 23, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Hollywood Casino 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

There are a number of drivers who work week in and week out to improve in their quest for their first win. Those drivers want nothing more than to chalk up a single win for themselves, their team, and their sponsors. Winning seven races? Those would be career numbers for those drivers. Not for Martin Truex Jr. who won his seventh race this season at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 78 team has performed at a higher level than most of the field since the 2017 season kicked off at Daytona International Speedway in February. Crew chief Cole Pearn talked about how they have been able to maintain their consistency throughout the season.

"I think it's just a testament to our group. We push every week like it's the most important race of the season to that point. I think if you have that mindset, that's what's going to keep you near the front of the pack. We've been fortunate enough to have strong cars. We continue to work to get them stronger.
           
"I don't know, I mean, we have a really set program that we run every week, how we approach the weekend. I think it's just a testament to our refinement of that over the time, the hard work of everybody at Toyota, JGR, Furniture Row," Pearn said.
Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs


During the red flag, Truex came over the radio and told Pearn he thought there was a chance that they could win. Given the team's recent successes on 1.5-mile tracks, was Pearn already thinking the same thing?

"Yeah, I mean, I think after everything that happened, we were starting the final stage in a decent spot somehow. So I think then he knocked off a really good restart, we missed that wreck, all of a sudden, boom, we're fourth, sitting with better tires than anybody in front of us. You think, Holy cow, we're in a pretty favorable position at this point," Pearn explained.

The win was, no doubt, bittersweet for the No. 78 team. On Saturday night, the team suffered a great loss. Jim Watson, the team's fabricator, died from a heart attack while in town for Sunday's race. The 55-year-old was with a group from the team who went out go-kart racing. 

According to Pearn, Watson was excited to go. As others raced, Watson had a heart attack and "kind of keeled over when they were done." Pearn said that Watson had texted his wife shortly before the cardiac event and relayed how much fun he was having. Pearn asked his team to, "Take a little bit of solace in that, that he was happy in his last moments."

With a pit road violation and the team's personal loss, Pearn still somehow managed to focus on the task at hand. 

"It's not easy at times. I think especially early on getting knocked out of the lead, it was tough. Then a loose wheel. Saving fuel in the middle of the race. It's just crazy.
            
"I don't know. We kept seeing how the situation was changing, trying to make the best call we could at the time. I think that's the only way we really know how to do it," Pearn said.
Lately, all the team really knows how to do is to win. It's something the remaining drivers in the playoffs know all too well. Pearn, of course, knows that each win is special but that they can't relax until that last lap at Homestead is complete.
"With this format, you can win 34 out of 36 races and lead everything but the last lap, [and] boom, you're not the champion.        
"You got to grasp every win and enjoy it, take all those highs just in case something happens in the last race," Pearn explained.
Just in case something happens. Anyone who has watched the No. 78 team this year knows that the "something" could very well be the team's first championship.
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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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