Monday, March 19, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Auto Club 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

For a few weeks, every crew chief and driver has been trying to catch up. Another team has dominated the racetracks on the schedule, and no one has been able to run them down. Until now.

Crew chief Cole Pearn talked about how the No. 78 team has prepared to race with the No. 4 team and what he thinks has made a difference this week.

"I think getting the new rules package and everything kind of sorted out some more. We knew early on we just really weren't where we wanted to be. But we weren't bad. It was just a matter of getting those last little bits.

"It's always good when you're running top five, but you know there's room to grow, room to get better. This week was a step. Finally you get caught up where you can really make improvements.  This was the first week where coming to the racetrack I felt like everything was making a little more sense, we had a lot better plan going into the day," Pearn explained.

Though they were prepared to give Kevin Harvick a run for his money, Martin Truex Jr. and his team didn't get that opportunity when an early on-track incident with Kyle Larson effectively ruined Harvick's chances to score a fourth consecutive win. Would Pearn have matched up with what crew chief Rodney Childers had set up for Harvick if the accident hadn't happened?

"Hard to say. Those guys are an amazing race team. You know they're probably going to be there at some point.

"I thought we were a little bit off from them yesterday in practice. Last night we were able to make a lot of good sense of stuff, find a lot of gain setup-wise I felt like going into today. We had a quiet confidence that if everything lined up, we were definitely going to have a good run at them.

"You never know. We don't really have another high-speed mile-and-a-half for a couple weeks, Texas. They were really good there last year, too. It's going to be an ongoing battle as it goes," Pearn said.
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Did Pearn adjust his strategy following the Harvick-Larson incident?

"Not really. I mean, really in this sport you can only do what you can do to yourself. You're focused on your own program. You know those guys are really good. Obviously they've been really successful so far this year. Whether they were in the race or not, I don't think we would have played anything any different. You just got to do the best you can for yourself. Really, that's the only chance you have," Pearn explained.

This season, the No. 78 is truly focused on its own program. Last year, the team was able to share information with the No. 77 team. However, with the departure of Erik Jones to Joe Gibbs Racing, Pearn and Truex are once again a one-car operation. Is it more difficult this year not having a teammate on whom he can rely for information?

"I don't think so. I think for us it's really no different. You always kind of focus. We operate in such a small window of stuff that's really focused on Martin. Whether we had one car or two cars, we were really focused on our one car.

It's less information in a way. In the same sense, it's easier in the shop now just having to prepare two cars a week instead of four. It's a lot more time and detail can go into them. For us, being a small team, it's not a bad problem at all," Pearn said.

You know what else isn't a bad problem? Following up their championship with an early win, putting the team in contention for a repeat later this season. 

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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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

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