Monday, June 25, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

Sometimes you need a little kick in the head to make good decisions. Just ask crew chief, Cole Pearn.

Pearn called Martin Truex Jr. to pit from the second position and then called it off, but not before Kevin Harvick was also called to pit and was committed to making his stop. It was a move that many may have questioned until it paid off with a win at Sonoma Raceway.

The move was one that Pearn considered earlier in the race.

"Yeah, I think kind of as the first run went and they started to make gains on us, it was clearly they were a little bit better. We continued to work on the car, too. I think really before we pitted the last time we were getting way more equal with them. We were starting where I thought we were actually gaining on them a little bit. But earlier in the race, we were like, hey, if this goes long, this might be an opportunity to do something different, and fortunately it worked out," Pearn explained.

Back to that kick in the head. It was really more a gash in his face. Pearn talked about what happened.

"I wish I was fighting a bear or a cougar or something cool, but my wife has been on me about building this treehouse for our kids. Anyways, I wanted nothing to do with it, but we were fortunate with the West Coast race we were able to fly out Friday morning, so I actually like had somewhat of a day off on Thursday and I decided to get involved.

"They kind of had it screwed up a bit from what they had done before, and we kind of took it all down and reset, and we were resetting like a four-by-four corner post, and I thought my wife had it and she didn't, and I walked away to get a clamp and she yelled my name and I turned right into it and basically got KO'd by it. But yeah, it went right down to my skull, bled a lot, and had to get stitched on the inside, then on the outside. Was back in about an hour, and I worked until about 9:00 Thursday night and I finished the stupid thing, so I'm glad it's done," Pearn said.

Furniture Row Racing president, Joe Garone, jokingly commented that had Pearn not been kicked in the head, he likely wouldn't have made the right call.

Pearn talked about being able to fend off and beat the No. 4 team, especially after having lost to the same team last year.

"You know, we were fortunate -- last year we had a really great car, by far better than they were, and they were the second-best car, and we blew up and they won. You know, so fortunate enough for us to work out and win. But you never know what's going to happen in the future, but at the end of the day, we really wanted to win today, and proud it worked out," Pearn explained.
Kathryn Gaskill for Skirts and Scuffs


Despite their fierce on-track competition, the two teams are friendly off-track. Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, went to Victory Lane to congratulate Pearn.

"Yeah, we have a great relationship I feel like. I respect him a lot, and I feel like he does the same.  Him and Martin worked together back at MWR, so they're good friends. At the end of the day, we're playing a game, so it's like at the end of the day, he's a good guy, and I think it's kind of cool for him to do that, and I think -- I always try and congratulate them when they win, and he always does it when we win. Like I said, we've raced against each other now for -- as long as I've been a crew chief, we've battled them a lot of weeks, and they're a great race team, make us better. I think that was cool.

"There's plenty of days where they're going to be up. Kevin Harvick is an awesome race car driver, and I've got a lot of respect for him. I was race engineer for him when I first started. I think it's pretty cool to be able to race them like we do... that's the cool thing about racing. I think you go from this level down to short track level, at the end of the day, you're competing against each other, but you're all there to help each other out when you're down. At the end of the day, we're playing a game. I mean, it's kind of cool to have that camaraderie, and you spend so many weeks together beside each other in the garage area working next to them, and obviously competing with them on race day and stuff. So I think that's one of the cool things about motorsports from go-karts to even the Cup level is it's kind of a family at the end of the day," Pearn commented.

Pearn would also be the first to say that his team feels like family, especially since the reigning Cup championship team is a single-car team far removed from the hub of race teams.

"We've got a lot of great people, and obviously Barney's [team owner, Barney Visser] commitment to our team. He enables us to kind of do it at a high level for a single-car team, and on top of that we've got great partners in Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing that we couldn't do without, period. They're awesome to work with, and we have a great relationship with them, so it's kind of a unique situation where we've got a lot of good people, and being out in Colorado is definitely a challenge at times, but we look to the opportunities that we can embrace it. It really just comes down to people. We've got a great team of people, even though it is a one-car team, and we rely on them heavily," Pearn said.

That interdependence on JGR isn't without its difficulties, though.

"You know, we work back and forth a lot. Some weeks it's difficult, especially on East Coast races.  We have to load a lot earlier just logistically to get there, and then these West Coast races it's an advantage for us over most teams. We're able to have the car in the shop a few days more than everybody else to get them out here. We like the West Coast races a lot. It plays into our favor. But I think the biggest thing is it just comes down to relationships with people, and we've got a lot of really good ones and a lot of trust and a lot of ones that have just been built over time. It's not something you just go draw up. We struggled for a lot of years and we just kind of adjusted and massaged and found a place that we know works for us, but it's a constant struggle. It's something we have to work at every week, and it's just fortunate enough, again, that we have a really good team of people and we've got a really good group of people that we work with," Pearn explained. 

That really good team of people just won again, setting themselves up for another run at a championship. Tune in this weekend to see how teams fare in an early trip to Chicagoland Speedway.

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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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