Cole Pearn is just as interested as the rest of the fans to see how NASCAR’s new rules package will work on the series’ fastest track when the drivers take to Michigan International Speedway’s two-mile superspeedway this weekend for the FireKeepers Casino 400.
Pearn is the highly successful crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing. He has been with Truex the past several years but as a member of Furniture Row Racing where they won four races in 2016, eight races and the series championship in 2017 and four more last year when they were series runner-up.
Pearn has moved from Denver — where Furniture Row Racing was based — to the JGR headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.
Truex, who has won three races this season, experienced engine problems this past Sunday at Pocono that ended his day early while JGR teammate Kyle Busch won his series-high fourth race. Denny Hamlin has won twice this season for JGR, including the Daytona 500, and Michigan native Erik Jones finished third at Pocono.
So, what does Pearn expect at MIS?
“It’s going to be crazy with the new rules package there,” Pearn said. “I think the draft is going to be really, really big and lane selection is going to be huge. Still track position will be really important and as long as you get outside lane restarts every time you’ll have a good day. But, I think it will be the tightest pack I think we’ve seen so far with this package.
“Basically, you now have less horsepower and more drag and more downforce and the corner speeds are way up and straightaway speeds are down and the draft is more of an element to it. It’s been up and down where some tracks it’s produced better racing and other tracks maybe worse.
“I don’t think I’ve been a part of a bigger rules change than what we’ve got this year with this, so it’s been a lot different style racing at a lot of places. We’re still wrapping our arms around it, but generally I think it’s produced a lot of really good races.”
In past years, Furniture Row Racing — owned by Barney Visser — had a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. But after Visser closed shop last year, Truex and Pearn moved on to JGR full-time.
“We were definitely part of the family so to speak, but being out on our own was definitely a little bit different. Some things were a little more second hand and at the same time you had more say on what direction you wanted to go on things,” Pearn said of his situation at Furniture Row and now moving to JGR.
“As far as switching teams go, it’s about as good a situation as possible with being able to go into a building you know really well and you know the cars and you worked with all the people for a few years. It’s as good as it could have been, for sure.
“Things are going well. The company is doing a great job. Everybody is working in the right direction together. It’s fun to be a part of that. I think when we looked at where was it going to shake, where were we going to go we’ve always felt really good about the Toyota camp and JGR specifically, so we just feel really fortunate to be here and be in a good spot and contributing to all the success we’ve had so far.”
And Pearn has enjoyed his time working with Truex.
“He’s extremely talented and easy to work with at the same time,” Pearn said. “He’s just a very regular guy and down to earth, which makes it a very nice environment to work in. He has a very deep fire to win and run well.”
No doubt, Pearn is happy to see his Toronto Raptors playing well. Pearn, raised outside of London, Ontario, is a huge Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors fan. He attended the NBA Finals opener last week before making his way to Pocono.
“It’s been incredible,” Pearn said. “It’s really neat to see all the passion everybody’s showing. I think it’s going to be a tight series.”
What: FireKeepers Casino 400
Race: 2 p.m. Sunday, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn
Defending champion: Clint Bowyer