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Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing earn Colorado Sportsperson, Team of the Year honors

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to rack up the honors.

The defending NASCAR Cup champion was named Friday as the 2017 Colorado Sportsperson of the Year by Mile High Sports magazine.

Truex’s photo is on the cover of the current Mile High Sports. He was also named Colorado’s “Fan Favorite” Athlete of the year in a fan vote on the magazine’s website,

In addition, the magazine named Furniture Row Racing as Colorado Team of the Year. FRR president Joe Garone was a finalist for the magazine’s Executive of the Year.

“What Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing did this year was not only unprecedented for the team and the state, but it was hands down the best sports story of the year,” Mile High Sports magazine editor-in-chief Doug Ottewill said in a media release. “What he had to go through personally, what the team had to overcome along the way – all of it made our choice for Sportsperson of the Year an easy one.

“This is our highest honor – the big one, the one that the likes of John Elway, Peyton Manning, Missy Franklin and Chauncey Billups have won – and it thrills me to be able to add Martin Truex Jr. to that list.”

Driver of the No. 78 FRR Toyota Camry, Truex earned a NASCAR Cup series-high eight wins, capped off with a win in the season-ending and championship-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He also led virtually every major statistical category.

“Individual honors in a team sport are a result of the people you are surrounded with,” Truex said in a statement. “I feel blessed to be part of an outstanding organization led by our owner Barney Visser, team president Joe Garone and crew chief Cole Pearn.

“These honors represent the hard work by the talented individuals at our Denver race shop. I want to thank Mile High Sports and all our passionate Colorado race fans for the support they have given our team through the years.”

Furniture Row Racing, which calls the Denver, Colorado area home, is the only active NASCAR Cup team based west of the Mississippi River and 1,500 miles from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, where most NASCAR teams are based.

“I guess we have heard ’that’s impossible, you will never do that’ for the last time,” Visser said in a statement. “We are very proud of our Denver roots and to receive these prestigious awards in our home state makes it even more special.

“The Colorado fans have been loyal followers of our team and we are honored to bring a major championship to the state.”

The Colorado honors add to an already lengthy list of awards that Truex, Pearn and Furniture Row Racing have earned, including:

* Truex was recently named New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year.

* For the second consecutive year, Truex was named Eastern Motorsport Press Association Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year.

* AutoWeek magazine named Truex Driver of the Year and Furniture Row Racing was named Team of the Year.

* named Truex Driver of the Year, Pearn was named Crew Chief of the Year and Furniture Row Racing was named Team of the Year. Truex and longtime partner Sherry Pollex were also awarded Best Moment Off The Track.

* Truex and Pollex were awarded the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Award.

Cole Pearn to honor late friend with fundraiser for family next month in Toronto

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A testimonial to Cole Pearn’s best friend, who unexpectedly passed away in early August, as well as a fundraiser for his family will be held Friday, Jan. 5, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Pearn’s lifelong friend, Jacob Damen, died unexpectedly after contracting a fast-moving bacterial infection on August 3.

Pearn, crew chief for the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship for Furniture Row Racing, will oversee the gala event, which will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. ET.

The evening will also include an appearance by 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., silent and live auctions, the opportunity to meet both Pearn and Truex and other events.

All net proceeds from the evening will be given to the Damen Family Fund.

“We miss our buddy Jacob dearly,” Pearn said in a media release. “We all have family and friends that fill a space in our hearts that is irreplaceable.

“Jacob filled the hearts of his wife Carolyn, his sons Lucas and Nolan, his parents Jerry and Kim Damen, twin brother Tyler, sister Julia and countless friends.

“We are going to celebrate his life at the perfect spot, the Hockey Hall of Fame, to support his beautiful wife Carolyn and the two boys, Lucas and Nolan. I can’t wait to get home to celebrate with everyone.”

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the ‘Jacob Damen Friend and Fan Remembered’ event.

Will Canada honor Cole Pearn like it does its NHL players? And would he bring the NASCAR Cup?

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Cole Pearn is the first Canadian-born crew chief to win a NASCAR Cup championship.

Which got us thinking …

Pearn is a native of Strathroy-Caradoc, Canada, near London (Ontario, not England). He grew up following both racing and, quite naturally, hockey (he’s a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but has also come to follow the Colorado Avalanche, given that Furniture Row Racing’s headquarters is in suburban Denver). Heck, he still plays hockey himself in a weekly Denver recreation league.

As is a longtime NHL tradition, many players grow playoff beards for good luck en route to what they hope will end with a Stanley Cup championship, That kind of tradition rubbed off on Pearn, 35, who also grew a beard leading up to the Cup championship.

Ok, so that’s at least one thing he has in common with his Canadian-born NHL brethren.

Now, how about another NHL-like tradition for Pearn?

During the offseason, players on every NHL Stanley Cup-winning team get an opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup to their hometown for a day or two of celebration on their home turf, where it all began for them. It can be anywhere in the U.S., Canada or even Russia.

While we haven’t heard of a “Cole Pearn Day” being organized yet north of the border, wouldn’t it be cool to see him take the 65-lb. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup back home to celebrate his championship – Stanley Cup-style?

After all, Pearn and Truex and the rest of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team have been big news in the great white north, and have developed quite the loyal Canadian fan base.

“It’s been pretty neat, all the coverage we’ve gotten national media-wise in Canada,” Pearn said this past week in Las Vegas.

“It’s hard if you’re not a hockey player to get much attention there, so it’s pretty neat how much they’ve embraced it and embraced the sport, and deservingly so,” Pearn said.

While hockey is the undisputed king in Canada, racing – stock car, sports car and drag racing – are among the country’s other top sports.

“There’s tremendous racing there,” Pearn said of his native land. “The short track scene in Canada is awesome, that’s what I grew up in. To get that coverage and get the sport covered there is really cool.”

To show how big Pearn and Truex’s championship has been in Canada, check out a video of Pearn’s interview (starts about 17 minutes in) with Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole of Canada’s The Sports Network, the day after the No. 78 team won the Cup crown.

So we started thinking again … wouldn’t it be a great promotion and publicity for NASCAR if Pearn went back home for a day or two — and he brought NASCAR’s version of the Stanley Cup with him? Heck, maybe even take a few side trips to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, even Vancouver. He’s earned it, not to mention Canada has a lot of NASCAR fans who would probably like to share the celebration with him.

Pearn and Truex captured the NASCAR Cup championship one week before one of Canada’s biggest sports days of the year, the annual Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup championship (Toronto upset Calgary on Nov. 26). Toronto already had a big downtown celebration for its championship Argonauts this past Tuesday.

So hey, Strathroy-Caradoc — or even the big city a few miles down the road, London — how about a championship parade and a “Cole Pearn Day” for your native son?

Cup championship crew chiefs worried about tire allotment in Miami

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A 2015 Cup championship trophy sits in crew chief Adam Stevens’ office so he can see it every day.

“I kind of like to be reminded every time I come to work what we’re racing for and what the hard work we put in day in and day out and night in and night out and through all the grind of the season what it’s all for,’’ Stevens said.

He seeks another championship trophy with his driver, Kyle Busch, among the four racing for a title in Sunday’s season finale in Miami (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

The challenge for Busch and Stevens will be more than Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski for the championship. Stevens and other crew chiefs are concerned about the tire limits this weekend.

Cup teams will be allowed nine sets for the race plus the set they use in qualifying. Last year, teams had 12 sets available plus they could also use a set from practice.

Fewer sets of tires could mean more difficult decisions for crew chiefs, especially if there are a number of cautions.

“I think it changes a lot,’’ said Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick.

Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

Childers noted that in 2014 when he and Harvick won the title, they used 11 sets of tires in the 400-mile race.

“I don’t feel like there’s enough tires,’’ Childers said of the allotment for Sunday’s race. “The last thing you want to do is run out of tires with 40 laps to go and not be able to do anything or race for a championship at the end. I’ve been trying to push a little bit, see if we can’t get an extra set for the race.’’

Teams were allowed fewer tires in half of the playoff races this season compared to last year. NASCAR cut allotments for some races after examining tire usage by teams with Goodyear. NASCAR sought to have the number of sets available closer to what had been used in previous races.

The concern among crew chiefs is that tires could be critical because how much they wear at Homestead-Miami  Speedway. Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, notes that the track has become one of the highest wear tracks on the circuit.

That’s just one of many concerns crew chiefs have entering the weekend. Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski, has additional worries. His team has struggled to find speed in the playoffs. Keselowski has finished ahead of Truex twice in the first nine playoff races but neither were at 1.5-mile speedways, the length of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Keselowski has been slower than Truex and Harvick in green flag speed and on restarts in all four of the playoff races on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

“We’ve just got to go down there and make speed,’’ Wolfe said. “That’s kind of as simple as it is. I feel good about what we’re bringing down there. I don’t know if it’ll be enough, but I’m proud of the effort that we’ve put in.’’

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn arrive as what some will view as the favorite with seven victories this season, including six on 1.5-mile speedways. Pearn is fine with that role. It’s much better than in 2015, when the team entered the season finale as an underdog.

“I think at that point we were just thrilled to have made it, and I think we didn’t really know what to do,’’ he said. “It was like a dog chasing the car, we finally caught the car and we didn’t know what to do with it. 

“This past year and the year before we really tried to take more time and get ourselves prepared for Homestead itself. So I think, obviously, we won’t see that until this weekend, but it’s been in our mind for a long time, and really trying to get ourselves prepared for this race and probably have put more emphasis on it than we would have if we hadn’t have gone through what we did in 2015.’’

NASCAR America: It’s Scan All Texas, pardner

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They always seem to do things bigger in Texas, and this week’s edition of Scan All is no exception, with bigger action on the radio and TV.

Here’s some of the highlights:

  • “We have a different race track from last week, but the theme is the same: move it forward all day and put it where we need to be.” — Crew chief Jeremy Bullins to driver Ryan Blaney.
  • “I’ll see you down there in about 3 1/2 hours and get us a cowboy hat.” — Clayton Hughes, spotter for Martin Truex Jr.
  • “It’s not exactly what we wanted, but we’ll gather it up here.” Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski, after the first-lap contact between Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
  • “The goal is to not get crashed and not get lapped again.” — Crew chief Chad Knaus to Jimmie Johnson after the No. 48 went two laps down in the race.
  • Danica Patrick asked crew chief Billy Scott “How many laps is this race?” To which Scott replied, “334, so we’re about five laps past halfway.” Patrick responded, “Oh, geez.”
  • “Sorry I’m being all a negative Nancy out here, but it’s hot as (expletive).” — Danica Patrick on the high temperature in her car.
  • “We’re going to Miami, though. We’ll get ’em in two weeks.” — After Martin Truex Jr. finished second, crew chief Cole Pearn gave him the good news that he had qualified for the Championship 4 on points. “
  • “Damn, it’s good to be here in victory lane here in Texas.” — Race winner Kevin Harvick.

Check out Sunday’s best in the video above.