CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. got a phone call from Cole Pearn on Sunday and Truex quickly had a very bad feeling about it.
“When he started talking it was in the back of my mind that, ‘This is not good. I feel like something big is about to come,'” Truex recalled. “Sure enough, it was surprising.”
Pearn had called to tell Truex what everyone else would learn the next day: after five years together, he was resigning as his crew chief and leaving NASCAR.
Truex discussed the end of Pearn’s tenure and what he wants from his next crew chief during a break from giving out Christmas toys to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital.
“Thought I could get a couple more years out of him, to be honest,” Truex said before admitting he completely understood Pearn’s reasons for getting out of NASCAR while seemingly at the top of his game: a long season that keeps him from seeing his family.
“I understand the grind, I understand just how hard he has to work to produce a level of competition that he does,” Truex said. “I’ve seen it first hand, his hours and what’s he’s willing to do. I don’t know that there’s anyone in the garage willing to put as much work into racing as he did.”
He continued: “It’s time for him to move into doing something else. His kids are growing up too fast and he doesn’t get to see them that much. It was big decision for him and I know … he feels somewhat like he let all us down. I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do what’s best for your family, we all understand and all our guys will understand, we’ll go on and try to the best with someone else filling his role.'”
When it comes to figuring who will take over as crew chief on the No. 19 Toyota, Truex said, “We’ve got a few guys in mind. I feel like we’re narrowing it down. We should know something in the next couple of days for sure.”
Whoever takes over will follow in the wake of a crew chief who worked with Truex to produce 24 wins in five seasons, four appearances in the Championship 4 and the 2017 Cup title.
How did half a decade of success with Pearn change what Truex wants from a crew chief?
“Honestly, that’s a good question,” Truex said. “Obviously, I need to find somebody that has his demeanor, a guy that approaches racing the way he does, because it’s kind of what works for me. I feel like we approach racing the same way, Cole and I did. Our attitudes and just the way we thought about things was so similar. We could almost finish each other’s sentences.
“It’s so weird, we’re so different people outside of racing. In racing, that’s just the way we grew up. Our dads racing and racing go-karts and moving up through the ranks ourselves. We just did things a lot the same and we had similar beliefs in the way we did things. Just kind of the same thought process.”
Truex believes he and Pearn “approached a lot of things together more so than me being a rookie and him being a veteran like it was when I first started.
“No question, he was really good at getting the most out of me and I’ll need somebody to do that,” Truex said. “I’m not the most outspoken guy and so I need sometimes somebody to pull that information out of me, especially when it comes to the cars and building the cars. When they’re not good enough, how do you make them better? He was really good at that. I feel good about the guys we’re talking to and we’ve got a few options there and hopefully it’ll work out.”