Cole Pearn unexpectedly retired from NASCAR on Monday. The crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. decided that the demands of 38 race weekends year in and year out were enough for him. I mean, who could blame him? The Canadian has a family and 38 of 52 weeks away from them was too much. That’s why he decided to walk away now.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision,” Pearn said. “At the end of the day, I really want to spend time with my family and actually see my kids grow up. Being on the road, you are away from home so much and miss a lot of time with your family. I don’t want to miss that time anymore. I want to be there for all the things that my kids are going to experience while they are still young. I love racing and there isn’t a better place to be than Joe Gibbs Racing, but I don’t want to look back in 20 years and think about everything I missed with my wife and kids while I was gone. They are what is most important to me.”
But, this also could have huge implications for Truex Jr. See, we’ve seen in recent years that the best drivers win championships with the best crew chiefs. Just look in recent years the combinations that have stuck – Kevin Harvick/Rodney Childers, Kyle Busch/Adam Stevens, Brad Keselowski/Paul Wolfe, Joey Logano/Todd Gordon, etc.
Behind every driver is a good man on top of his pit box. Just look historically too. Richard Petty/Dale Inman, Jeff Gordon/Ray Evenham, Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus.
198 of Petty’s 200 wins came with Inman. All 83 of Johnson’s wins came with Knaus. Evernham propelled Gordon to 47 wins and three of his four titles. I can go on and on.
Pearn, guided Truex to 24 of his 26 trips to victory lane. 23 of those 24 have come since 2016 (most in the series). Their recent success together was top in the game. There wasn’t a better combo in the garage.
Now, Truex loses his partner in crime. That could be a big loss, an underrated one at that. It’s Truex’s safety blanket. When Truex started taking off in 2015, it was the first year together. That’s not a coincidence. When everything seemed to fall apart around Truex in terms of his racing career, Pearn was there to guide him.
I mean, when the fall out with Michael Waltrip Racing happened, it was the pairing with Pearn and Furniture Row Racing to catch him. When FRR decided to shut doors following the 2018 season, Pearn came with Truex to JGR. Change teams, change scenery, change anything, Pearn was there. In their first year together with JGR in 2019, they finished runner-up in the championship on the heels of a series leading seven wins, 15 top five finishes and 24 top 10’s.
Over the past five seasons, Pearn and Truex have enjoyed one of the most successful stretches in NASCAR history where they won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship and qualified for the Championship 4 on four different occasions. The duo’s 23 wins since the start of 2016 are the best among all driver-crew chief combos over that time. Since 2017, his final points standing each year was first, second and second respectively.
“I cannot say enough good things about Cole and what he has meant for my career,” Truex said. “I appreciate his hard work and dedication to our race team over the past six years going back to when he was my engineer at Furniture Row. Our friendship is what matters most to me and I’m happy that he’s doing what’s best for him and his family.”
For the first time since 2014, Truex will not have Pearn by his side. You can’t discredit that. Stevens and Busch are still together, so is Childers/Harvick, Gordon/Logano and Wolfe/Keselowski. Stats have proven, the longer the relationship between driver/crew chief, the more success.
Alan Gustafson and Chase Elliott will come back together for another go around. That duo is going to be one to watch too.
Meanwhile, Truex has a new man on top of his pit box, one without any past history together. It could take some time to gel.