CONCORD, N.C. — Over the years in racing, there have been several memorable driver and crew chief pairings in NASCAR that have combined to leave an indelible imprint on the sport’s top level.
Richard Petty and Dale Inman were perhaps the first pair to achieve true stardom, winning seven championships together, while Ray Evernham and Jeff Gordon; Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe; and, most notably, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have all come after and tried to emulate or help reset the gold standard.
But now, perhaps Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Pearn should be injected into that conversation as potentially the next great driver-crew chief duo in the garage area.
They’ve certainly made a case for it this year, at least.
Pearn and Truex have combined for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-best six wins in 2017, having won their ways through both the Round of 16 and the Round of 12 and seemingly having a berth in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway all but locked up.
They lead the series in race wins, top-fives, top-10s, stage wins, playoff points, laps led and average finish. Put simply, it’s been a dream season.
But that begs the question: why has the duo clicked so well?
Both Truex and Pearn struggled slightly to explain following their win in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but offered what insight they could into their at-track dynamic that has been red-hot from a performance standpoint this year.
Truex said that it’s been a steady press forward ever since he and Pearn first paired up ahead of the 2015 season, following an abysmal campaign the year before that saw then-crew chief Todd Berrier reassigned within the Furniture Row organization as Pearn stepped up from the engineer slot.
“I think for us it’s just been a progression,” Truex said of his meteoric rise with Pearn. “I think when we first got together … we had similar backgrounds, our dads raced, we grew up racing with them at short tracks and in go-karts. He just went in a different path than I did. We grew up in similar ways and have similar values and the way we treat people, the way our work ethic, what we’re willing to do … all of that matches and I think the way we enjoy racing is very similar, too.”
“We love — both like the same things at the race track and approach racing in a similar fashion, and I think we each let each other do our own jobs and have confidence in our decisions.”
The similarity in background and personality has certainly aided the two, but Pearn — who holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Waterloo in Canada — added that it’s not just he and Truex that have made the No. 78 team work, it’s just that, the team that has thrived.
“It’s paramount. Martin’s relationship with our whole team and our whole team as a group … we’re all in it together,” said Pearn. “We all sucked together in 2014, and at the end of the day we didn’t get on each other. It was a time when we really struggled, and it was an opportunity for things to fall apart, and we all kind of looked each other in the (eyes) and said, ‘Hey, man, if we get this fixed, we’re confident in everybody.'”
“Even when we ran bad, Martin knew that I looked at him and had the confidence in his eyes and he looked at me and knew that I was trying and knew that I believed in him.”
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