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Cole Pearn
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Cole Pearn reveals post-NASCAR plans

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Three weeks after he stunned the NASCAR world by saying he was abruptly retiring from the sport, we now know what the next chapter of Cole Pearn’s life will be.

And it’s about as far away from NASCAR as you can get.

Pearn revealed recently to the Toronto Sun that he and his wife Carrie have moved to Western Canada and have purchased Golden Apple Holidays, a skiing and hiking vacation company in British Columbia.

“Not many times do you get the opportunity to do that, to leave when you’re at the height of your success,” Pearn told The Sun. “We were ready to go on to do the next chapter.”

Pearn was tired of being gone from home so often during the course of the NASCAR season and not being around 7-year-old son Callum and 5-year-old daughter Freya.

“I’ve had a ton of great memories when we do get time together, but that day-to-day life, they’re not used to me being there, so for me I felt like the window was closing,” Pearn told The Sun. “I think once they’re teenagers they probably won’t want anything to do with me. If I was going to be part of their lives, the window was now. I think that really pushed us to make the decision as early as we did.”

“I know it’s what we needed to do. I’m sure there’s going to be things I’m going to miss, but at the same time it would have been hard to keep going.”

Even though Pearn doesn’t rule out the possibility of doing some consulting in NASCAR in the future, his decision to buy the skiing and hiking business is something “I’m definitely at peace” with, he told The Sun.

The seed of Pearn’s new venture was sewn nearly a year ago while he was on a skiing trip in Japan with the now former owners of Golden Alpine Holidays, which includes four rental lodges.

“It just seemed to cross a lot of the things off the list of what we were looking for,” Pearn told The Sun. “We finally came to a point this year where we found an avenue that we felt could work and we were excited about and we just decided to act on it.”

“We’re either going to do this or we’re not, and we didn’t feel good about any other options and that’s kind of how we settled on our plan.”

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2019 Season in Review: Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr.
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Martin Truex Jr.

CREW CHIEF: Cole Pearn

TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing

POINTS: 2nd

WINS: Seven (Richmond I, Dover I, Coke 600, Sonoma, Las Vegas II, Richmond II and Martinsville II)

LAPS LED: 1,371

TOP 5s: 15

TOP 10s: 21

POLES: None

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Martin Truex Jr. acclimated well in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, earning a series-leading seven wins. That included his first Cup Series win on a short track in the Richmond spring race, his second Coke 600 win and winning three times in the playoffs.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Truex likely had the best car in the championship race in Miami. But a fluke on pit road that caused the wrong tires to be put on each side of his car resulted in an unscheduled pit stop in the middle of the race. Truex quickly got got his lap back, but he didn’t have enough to track down eventual winner and champion Kyle Busch.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2020: After producing 24 wins and one championship over the last five years, Truex will have a new crew chief in 2020 after the surprising resignation of Cole Pearn earlier this month. His replacement will be the team’s lead engineer, James Small, who is no stranger, having been with Truex and Pearn for the last three seasons. Whether Truex can maintain his momentum in the new season with a new voice on the pit box will be a significant storyline.

James Small named Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief

Photo: Joe Gibbs Racing
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When Martin Truex Jr. greets his crew chief every morning, don’t be surprised if he starts off by saying “G’day, mate.”

One week after Cole Pearn announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing as crew chief on Truex’s No. 19 Toyota Camry, the organization announced Thursday that Melbourne, Australia native James Small has been promoted from Truex’s lead engineer to Pearn’s replacement as crew chief.

Small, 36, is no stranger to Truex, Pearn or the No. 19 team as a whole, having served in various capacities the past three seasons with Truex, dating back to Truex’s last two seasons with Furniture Row Racing in the No. 78 (2017-2018).

When Truex, Pearn and the team moved from the now-defunct FRR to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2019 season, Small came along and was elevated to lead engineer, helping Truex to a series-best seven wins, as well as 15 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.

Truex finished second to JGR teammate Kyle Busch in the final season standings. After Pearn’s departure, Truex discussed what he was looking for in a new crew chief. He apparently has found that with Small’s ascension to that role.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” Small said in a JGR media release. “Having the confidence of Coach (team owner Joe Gibbs), Martin and everyone at JGR means a lot to me.

“I moved to the United States six years ago to work in NASCAR and I wanted to work my way up to become a crew chief. I’m ready for this and I am excited about working with Martin and the foundation we have in place on the 19 team with the group of guys we have.”

Truex took to Twitter to talk about Small’s promotion and his hopes for how the pair will fare in the upcoming 2020 season.

Truex also said in a media release, “I know James well and feel very comfortable with him. I feel like we approach racing very similar. He and Cole (Pearn) have a lot of similarities. It’s a natural fit and I’m really excited about it. I think he’ll do a great job.”

While this will be Small’s first time as a full-time Cup crew chief, he previously filled in for two races as crew chief for Erik Jones in the latter’s Cup rookie season in 2017 with Furniture Row Racing.

Small displayed his prowess atop the pit box almost immediately, leading Jones to a third-place finish at Michigan International Speedway and a 10th-place finish at Watkins Glen International.

Small spent that entire 2017 season as Jones’ lead engineer with the No. 77 team before moving to Truex’s team in 2018.

Prior to coming to the U.S. and NASCAR, Small spent eight years working in his native Australia in the V8 Supercars Championship. His first role in NASCAR was in an engineering role from 2014-2016 with Richard Childress Racing.

Later Thursday afternoon, Small was a guest on SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Here’s a tweet of some of his comments:

Joe Gibbs Racing also announced that Jeff Curtis has joined the organization and will assume Small’s former role as lead engineer for Truex’s car. In addition, the team also announced Blake Harris will return as car chief for the No. 19.

Pearn also tweeted about Small’s promotion:

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Rodney Childers can relate to why Cole Pearn stepped away from NASCAR

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Cole Pearn shocked the NASCAR world last week when he announced he was leaving Joe Gibbs Racing, the No. 19 team and the sport as a whole to spend more time with his family.

Few people could better understand Pearn’s decision than Rodney Childers, crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 4 Ford driven by Kevin Harvick.

While Childers is not quite at the point Pearn was when he made the fateful decision to step away, he more than understands why his good friend did what he did.

“Cole has always been a simple guy,” Childers said on the Stewart-Haas Radio Podcast, Episode 43, with Mike “Nook” McCarville. “He was in a position to do whatever he wants. He’s more of a family man than I think anybody in the garage realized, what his wife and kids mean to him is quite impressive. No matter how many races or championships you win, none of that matters at the end of the day. What matters is those kids and how they grow up and what their dad means to them.

Now-former NASCAR Cup crew chief Cole Pearn. (Getty Images)

“I can promise you, I think about that stuff every day. I’ve done this stuff for a long time. I’ve raced since I was 12 years old. It’s been 31 years, that’s a long time to do it, for sure. You just have to keep plugging along. Some days are good, some days are bad but you have to have a supportive family beneath you, and I feel he definitely had a supportive family. … He’s doing it (retiring) because of what he loves and what means the most to him.”

Childers identifies strongly with Pearn’s desire to spend more time with his family.

“You look back in 2014 and 2015 when we were first started this deal, I was getting home at 10 o’clock every night and I was here at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Childers said on the SHR podcast. “The guys still joke about it but New Years Day came around and I said we were working, and they were like, ‘Well, that’s a holiday.’ And I said, ‘It’s not a holiday right now.’

“If you’re going to win races and run for a championship, you have to work. As a crew chief, you don’t get those days off. … The only time I see the kids is at night. If things are rolling real good at the shop, sometimes I can get out of here at 5:30 p.m. Other times, I don’t get home until it’s 7:30 p.m. or 8 o’clock and they’re already getting in bed. It’s dark when you leave to go to work and it’s dark when you get home and you don’t get a chance to play basketball with them, you don’t throw a ball, don’t go to the tennis court and you don’t take them to golf lessons. You don’t do any of that stuff. I see that with my own kids.”

Childers and Pearn may have been tough competitors on the racetrack, but they also became close friends over the years.

“We’ve talked for a lot of years,” Childers said on the podcast. “A lot of people don’t know this but the first person I called for an elite engineer position when I was starting the 4 team was Cole Pearn. He was just getting moved up into a crew chief position (at Furniture Row Racing) and wasn’t sure if he wanted to do that or not, but he made the best out of it.

“He worked under Todd Berrier out there (Furniture Row Racing was based in suburban Denver). Todd moved back to Charlotte to work for Gibbs and kept things going out there (Denver). We have a ton of respect for each other over the years. His way of racing was really like ours, they work hard and try to win races. We probably like being beside them in the garage than anybody else in the entire series.

“It’s funny, you put the two of us in a garage beside each other, and we act like teammates in a way. At Homestead (for this past season’s championship race), we were beside each other the whole weekend and talked the whole weekend and I remember I needed a tool and I borrowed it out of their tool box. We respect each other, don’t rat each other out. We see things on their car and don’t say a word and they see stuff on ours and they don’t say a word. That’s a lot of mutual respect.”

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: What were best NASCAR teams overall in 2019?

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As NASCAR Talk continues its post-season Power Rankings, here are the 10 teams we feel performed the best throughout the entire season across all three major series: Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

We made our picks based using a number of variables including which drivers work the best with their crew chiefs, which teams have the strongest pit crews, how a team was run, and assorted other elements that often spell the difference between success and lack thereof.

Note that we are selecting the best TEAMS, not necessarily the best organizations overall. But as you will soon find out, several of those best teams also came from within the same organization, as well.

Here’s how we picked them:

1. Kyle Busch and No. 18 Cup team (30 points): Sure, this team slumped a bit in the second half of the season, going winless in 21 of the final 22 races (although they still were able to win the regular season championship), but when everything was on the line in the championship-deciding race at Miami, Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens proved why they are the best … and why they are the champions.

2. Martin Truex Jr. and No. 19 Cup team (27 points): From an overall consistency standpoint, there are few teams like the one spearheaded by Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. Truex won the championship in 2017 and finished second in 2018 and 2019. The No. 19 also had a combined 19 wins in those three seasons. No other team matched that kind of performance (although Busch came close with 18 wins and finishes of 2nd, 4th and 1st during that same period). Truex will have a new crew chief in 2020 after Pearn unexpectedly announced he was leaving his position with Joe Gibbs Racing on Monday.

3. Kevin Harvick and No. 4 Cup team (23 points): Even though most other teams would welcome the opportunity to have the kind of performance the No. 4 team has enjoyed, the No. 4 team is seemingly stuck in a loop of sorts. Even though Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have a team that has won 14 races in the last three seasons and have one of the best pit crews in the business, they’ve finished third in each of those last three seasons. This is a team that has made a few mistakes over that same time period, and it can be argued that may be one of the reasons why it finished third so frequently.

4. Denny Hamlin and No. 11 Cup team (22 points): The combination of Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart together for the first time in 2019 paid big dividends, particularly with six wins (including the Daytona 500). Not only was that the second-most number of wins in a single season for Hamlin – and the most races he’s won in a decade – but also was a big bounceback after Hamlin failed to win even one race in 2018 with former crew chief Mike Wheeler. Sadly, the season did not end the way Hamlin and company had hoped. And given he is now 39 years old, it may very well have been the last strong bid Hamlin will have to win that elusive Cup championship.

5. Christopher Bell and No. 20 Xfinity team (15 points): There’s domination, then there’s what this team did from 2018-19. No titles, but 15 wins, 38 top fives and 41 top 10s in 66 races. Bell now advances to the Cup Series for 2020 and he’s taking crew chief Jason Ratcliff with him, which is a no-brainer.

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott and No. 9 Cup team (7 points): Valiant comeback to advance past the second round was wasted when everything went wrong in the next round. Elliott and crew chief Alan Gustafson have become a strong team, winning a combined six races in the last two years, but there is still the issue of performing well under pressure. Elliott appeared a lock to advance to the Championship 4 round until he reached the third round and finished 36th, 32nd and 39th, ending his title hopes with a definitive thud.

(tie) 6. Ross Chastain and No. 45 Truck team (7 points): A team that opened the season not planning to run a full season with one driver, switched to a championship hunt after eight races, bounced back from having a win disqualified to win the next race and made it to the Championship 4.

(tie) 6. Cole Custer and No. 00 Xfinity team (7 points): Upgraded at crew chief with Mike Shiplett and went from a one-win-per-season team for the previous two seasons to finishing with seven wins in 2019, one less win than Christopher Bell. Not surprisingly, Custer and Shiplett will remain together when Custer jumps to the Cup series and the No. 41 in 2020.

(tie) 9. Joey Logano and No. 22 Cup team (6 points): It was a similar season to 2018 for Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon in 2019, but the end results were diametrically opposite. Whereas Logano went from underdog to champ in 2018, he fell short of running for a second career title in 2019, ultimately finishing fifth in the standings. Still, this duo works very well together. One thing that needs to be looked at if Logano wants to improve in 2020 is to cut down on the number of mistakes both he and his pit crew make.

(tie) 9. Tyler Reddick and No. 2 Xfinity team (6 points): This was an outstanding season for Reddick despite some challenges. Not only did Reddick move to Richard Childress Racing after he won the 2018 Xfinity championship for JR Motorsports, Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett worked seamlessly throughout the season, winning five times and failing to finish in the top 10 just six times in 33 races. No surprise, they’ll stay together when Reddick drives the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing in 2020, with Burnett going with him.

Others receiving votes: Brad Keselowski and No. 2 Cup team (5 points), Austin Hill and No. 16 Truck team (5 points), Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 Truck team (2 points), Kyle Larson and No. 42 Cup team (3 points) and Ryan Newman and No. 6 Cup team (1 point).

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