Cole Pearn went through the toughest week of his life, as he had to carry on his duties as crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, while thinking about the sudden death of his best friend, Jacob Damen.
Damen died Thursday from a fast-moving bacterial infection at the age of 35.
“It’s been probably the hardest week of my life,” Pearn said after Truex won Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen. “It’s still … it’s not over yet. I lost my best friend growing up this week. He caught a random bacterial infection from a cut and basically died in a day.
“It’s not like he was sick. I talked to him the day before. They were coming to Michigan next weekend. So just doesn’t seem real still. He’s got two little boys that are not going to know their dad pretty much. We’ll get through it as a group. We were lucky to have an unbelievable friend support and family around that will make sure everybody is all right.”
When asked to describe Damen, Pearn said, “(He) was a heart‑of‑gold guy that. I don’t know. I still haven’t come to terms with it, to be honest.”
Pearn dedicated the win to Damen, and planned to fly Sunday night back home to Strathroy-Caradoc, Ontario in Canada to attend Thursday’s funeral.
“It was about the worst week of my life so far,” Pearn told NBCSN. “To be able to win this for you, Jake, is just unbelievable.
“It’s going to be a tough week, but at least we’ll all be together,” Pearn said. “It just seems surreal. The whole week hasn’t seemed real and hasn’t yet. I can’t wait to get back home tonight to see everybody this week will make it a lot better to deal with.”