Cole Pearn’s Phoenix Absence a Mere “Bump in the Road”, says Truex Jr.

by March 11, 2016

Choosing to drop their appeal for a P3 penalty assessed to the team following Atlanta Motor Speedway’s race weekend, Furniture Row Racing will enter Sunday’s Good Sam 500(k) at Phoenix International Raceway without crew chief Cole Pearn.

Pearn, currently in his second season as crew chief for the No. 78 Toyota, was fined $50,000 and was to be suspended for this past weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, however, an appeal by Furniture Row delayed his suspension.

As Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 car, said at a Goodyear tire test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, there was a strategic element to the move to appeal ahead of last Sunday’s Kobalt 400.

Las Vegas’s race weekend kicked off with an open test on Thursday, providing teams with a valuable opportunity to test the low-downforce package and Goodyear’s tire compound of choice for the weekend. With so many tracks on the schedule being a mile-and-a-half in length, the information gained through the Las Vegas test is vastly beneficial for each team that participated.

“I thought it was really important to have him there for a lot of reason, obviously with the test day and being that it’s a mile-and-a-half – that’s pretty tricky and what we do there with the things we learned and the things we worked through and guided out there really lead into California and places like that,” Truex Jr. said. “There was a lot to learn and a lot of stuff to go through.

“Phoenix I feel is a lot more straightforward of a race weekend. There’s not quite as much to learn. You kind of go there and you feel like you’re close hopefully and you kind of tweak on it from there. There’s just so much that can be learned on those big tracks – especially when you get a test day, that it was huge to have him at Vegas for sure.”

With his regular crew chief absent for the Phoenix race weekend, Truex Jr. fully expects his No. 78 crew to keep the pace they’ve shown throughout the first three races of the year and not falter.

Last year’s championship round finalist says that Pearn’s absence is nothing but just a ‘bump in the road.’

“I think we’ve got a good plan,” Truex Jr. said. “I think it’s just a little bump in the road. We’ve got a really strong team and we’re prepared for this weekend not having Cole in the garage or on the pit box on Sunday.”

While he won’t physically be there, Pearn will be there spiritually – and virtually – as Berrier, crew chief for the weekend, will communicate with Pearn throughout the weekend and serve as liaison of sorts between Pearn and his team.

“He [Berrier]’s not labelled as a crew chief, he’s going to help us call the race and sit on the box to make sure everything’s going smoothly and kind of be the middle guy between Cole and the rest of the guys, I guess,” Truex Jr. said. “They can talk on the computer and chat and all of that stuff.

“Technically, I guess he’s not the crew chief. I’m not sure how much he’ll be around our garage through the weekend. I’m going to play it by ear and let them figure it out.”

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images