Monday, June 4, 2018

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

by Stacey Owens

Sometimes, the best pit stop is the one you don't make.

Crew chief Cole Pearn made the decision to leave Martin Truex Jr. on the track and give him the edge as the laps wound down this weekend at Pocono Raceway. Even though he was a little nervous about how few drivers stayed out alongside Truex, the plan worked.

"I was pretty nervous at the time, just didn't know how it was going to shake out. Kind of the 18 ducked off there and knew if we pitted we'd be behind them and then trying to come through traffic, so didn't think that was the call to win, at least at that point. You know, kind of wished maybe six or seven would have stayed out instead of four, but a little bit more nervous at that point. But obviously it worked out.
"Even in practice, our re-fires were really good on scuffs and felt like all day we had a good car. We were really equal. I think us, the 18 and the 4 were super equal all day, it was just a matter of kind of who was up front. Obviously taking the track position at that time and getting away from them was -- made it feel good those first couple laps we ran. Some of those were the fastest laps of the race, and kind of knew then we had a good shot at it," Pearn said.
Staying out was a calculated risk, especially since Kyle Busch stayed out during the same race a year ago, and things didn't work out so well for him.
"Yeah, obviously when only four of us stayed out, it was a little bit more of a concern at that point.  But I think that race is a lot hotter, and today was kind of cool, kind of a little bit more gripped up, and even in practice we were able to re-fire really well on older tires. I think that kind of gave us some optimism at least that, all right, if we can stretch it out -- honestly, I thought it would have been closer. I think -- I thought he would have been closer to us, but really once we got out running and the balance was really good at that point with the fuel burned off and scuffs, Martin was really happy with the car and able to make lap time. Once I kind of saw what we could run, I thought, 'All right, nothing crazy happens here, we've got a shot at it,'" Pearn explained.

Rebecca Kivak for Skirts and Scuffs
This season, fans have seen multiple wins from a handful of drivers. Last weekend, Pearn acknowledged that even though the No. 78 was a top-five contender, Truex didn't have the speed he needed to compete for a win against Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Did this weekend's win change that point-of-view for the champion crew chief?

"I think it was a step in the right direction for us this weekend. We've been working really hard and felt good about it this weekend. I think you look at the first stage, we were third behind both those guys, and we passed them both to win the stage. So I think that really has nothing to do with the end.  It showed that the speed was there in our car, and I think all three of us all day were give and take, where each of us were on the balance, we were all pretty equal. Obviously having track position then was good.
"Just at the end, even before that, it was all three of us in a row kind of racing for it. It was a good step in the right direction for us, and it hasn't come without work, I promise you that," Pearn said.
As the reigning champion crew chief, it's likely difficult not to think ahead to November. However, Pearn tends to be the type of crew chief who prepares for the race at-hand, not the race four months down the road. Is he, though, tempted to consider the what-ifs of repeating as a championship team?
"Yeah, I mean, ultimately you can only control your own destiny, so I think it's just a matter of continuing to work on the areas that we know we need to improve, and there's still areas after this weekend we feel like we can improve. It's a matter of staying after it, and if you manage your own inputs, the output is going to be the best that you can hope for.
"Obviously those guys, the 4 and the 18, have done an unbelievable job all year, and we've been close for sure, and today was a great step in the right direction and let us know that we were kind of working the right way," Pearn explained.
One thing is certain: The improvements the No. 78 team has made were the right ones, allowing them to visit Victory Lane for the second time 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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