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

by Stacey Owens

Preparation is key, but it can only take a crew chief so far. The final 20 laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 had Cole Pearn just waiting to see how Martin Truex Jr. would handle things on his own. His driver didn't disappoint.

"Yeah, I mean, it's really stressful. You make your bed, you got to lay in it for a little bit there. So, yeah, I mean, I knew we were getting ready to probably lose a bit of time with the 32 that just came off of pit road. Had to come a couple laps earlier than what we wanted to. Adam made the right call that he did to go three laps longer and split the run, go on the optimum strategy. 

"Yeah, the bed was kind of made. You weren't really sure. Kyle came out ripping off some pretty quick laps. We were having to get through lap traffic I think a little bit harder than he had to. 

"But Martin settled in and really took the whole run as overall and took care of the car really well.  Man, just unflappable, never made a mistake. I think we were doubting it pretty hard there with 10 or 12 to go, but then we started matching them, that gives you confidence, try to relay as much as you can to Martin.

"He did a great job there. I thought the 43 almost went off the track right in front of us. He didn't get too worked up over it and settled in and did a great job," Pearn explained.

An element over which crew chiefs have no control is lapped traffic. Pearn talked about his thoughts watching Truex get held up by some of those lapped drivers.

"That just kind of comes with being the leader. I think that's every bit of racing, it's going to be a little bit harder when you're the leader. When the guy behind you has a little bit better tires, it is what it is.

"Road courses are super tricky as far as where you hit them in the right spot, minimizing the time loss that you do. You get stuck in a couple spots in the track, you have to fall in for a couple corners. It could be two, three, four, five 10ths for that lap. That's enough for them to close on you, get a dive bomb. That's all we were really worried about," Pearn said.

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 Pearn also talked about how the addition of stages has altered the strategy for road course racing. 

"Yeah, I mean, before there was an element of randomness with not knowing when the cautions were going to come. Now when you know two set cautions are going to be there, I think that changes it. 

"We saw a mixed bag today. I think you got the car going for the win, they're going to give up stage points. Then you have the guys that are going for the stage points and are going to try to score max points. The 11, I'm guessing, they probably scored more points than we did today. 

"It's a tough call. If you don't win and you don't get the bonus points, you're probably a lot better off going for the stage points. It's a tough bet to make. 

Although the stagess have changed things a bit, one thing that hasn't changed in the last year is the outcome of the race in Sonoma. No driver other than Jeff Gordon has logged consecutive wins at the California track, but Truex was able to pull off the feat in 2018 and 2019. Pearn discussed his driver's repeat performance.

"The road courses have been great for us. As a racer, you always go back to the ones you could have won. I feel like '17 we were really good and lost an engine and ultimately lost that race. I felt like we could easily be sitting on three in a row here. 

"Yeah, definitely one you circle on the calendar every year. All the road courses for us. I think over the last few years, just continue to show how good Martin is in on all these. The more you go back to them, the more you learn, you get better for next time. I think that's something special about our team," Pearn explained.

The win only added to the number of victories that Pearn and Truex have achieved as a team. 
If you're keeping score, they have 21 wins over the last five seasons, and so far this season, they have four. When asked if he's responsible for their winning average, Pearn showed that he's a team player.

"I don't know. I mean, I think the sport takes everything to go right to win. We were very fortunate to have a great relationship together. For sure, he's gotten better.  I mean, I think that's one of the great things about him.

"I think that's what's so hard for rookies coming into the sport these days, is the fact that you got guys that are at the top of the sport that are always trying to get better themselves. I think that about Kyle Busch, I think that about Denny Hamlin. They're trying to get better all the time.

"When those guys continue to improve, you got to do the same. Martin has done a great job of that this year with all the rule changes, it's a different style of racing, a lot more downforce. You had no downforce last year to a ton of downforce this year. The fact that you can win in both configurations is really important," Pearn said.

That the pair have garnered such a high number of wins over several years says a lot about well they work together. Winning four so far in their first year with a new team speaks volumes about well they work with others.

"I know everything that Coach and everybody at JGR made happen to bring us in.

"When you can deliver on those expectations, especially as it started to click here over the last couple of months, it's a great feeling. Just gives you that confidence to know that you can still do it even in a different building. Just really gives you confidence to keep working forward, keep getting better," Pearn explained.

If they get any better, don't be surprised if they're the team hoisting a certain trophy when November rolls around.

  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.  
Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, June 24, 2019 Rating: 5