CONCORD, N.C. – Furniture Row Racing apparently will employ a crew chief-by-committee approach this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway in the absence of suspended Cole Pearn.
No. 78 Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. said he wasn’t sure of the precise plan but confirmed Wednesday that Todd Berrier will fill in for Pearn only atop the pit box Sunday. Berrier, who was the crew chief for Furniture Row before moving to Joe Gibbs Racing last season, isn’t being labeled as the team’s crew chief at Phoenix.
“(Berrier) will help us call the race to make sure it’s going smoothly,” Truex said during a break in tire testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “He’ll be the middle guy between Cole and the rest of the guys. They can talk on the computer and chat. Technically, he’s not the crew chief. I’ll play it by ear and let them figure it out. I’m not sure how much he’ll be around the garage.”
In an interview with NBC Sports’ Rick Allen for “NASCAR America,” Truex joked that the team would set up a laptop with a constant video stream of Pearn.
“Technology is a beautiful thing,” Truex said. “He’ll be set up on a computer screen in the lounge in the trailer, and we’re going to make like a little stick figure, and we’re going to sit the computer screen on top of it with him, and he’ll be looking at engineers the whole time like he normally is.”
Truex said Pearn and the team members would be “chatting, emailing and texting” over the weekend.
“I think we’ve got a good plan,” he said. “It’s just a little bump in the road. We’ve got a really strong team. We’re prepared for this weekend not having Cole in the garage or on the pit box.
“Really appreciate Todd helping us out offering to call the race on Sunday. He’s a familiar voice on the radio. We spent a year working together, so I think he’ll do a good job calling the race for us. It’s all about preparation, and Cole’s got the team prepared, and we’ll make sure we do all the right things throughout the weekend. We’ll just see how it goes. All in all, I don’t think it’ll be a huge deal.”
Despite being served a one-race suspension last week, Pearn was available to the team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway while the team appealed the penalty for improper roof flaps. The crew chief took part in a critical test last Thursday at Las Vegas, which plays host to one of the circuit’s 13 races at 1.5-mile tracks (including five in the playoffs). The team withdrew the penalty Monday, putting Pearn on suspension for Phoenix.
“I thought it was important to have him (at Las Vegas) for a lot of reasons,” Truex said. “The test day. It’s a mile and a half and pretty tricky. What we do there, and the things we learn and figure out and work through. There was a lot to learn and a lot to go through. Phoenix is a lot more straightforward of a race weekend.”