It took 13 races, but Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Pearn appear to have their groove back.
Sunday’s Coke 600 saw the driver-crew chief combo win for the third time in five races after a slow start to their first season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Before their winning stretch, the No. 19 team had only two top fives (both runner-up finishes) and 12 laps led in the first eight races. By comparison, their JGR teammates Kyle Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens won three times and finished in the top 10 in every race.
In addition to their wins, Truex and Pearn have led 445 laps since their Richmond victory April 13.
“Looking at it now, it’s going well, but it’s come with a lot of hard work. It’s been a lot of adjustment,” Pearn said Sunday of the move from Furniture Row Racing to JGR.
They now have 20 wins in their five years and 156 starts together.
“It’s always been an easy relationship between the two of us,” Pearn said of Truex. “I never, ever dreamt that when I kind of took over as crew chief that we’d be sitting here with as many wins as we’ve had together. It just still blows my mind.
“Seemed like we were just hoping that we could knock out some top 10s, and looking back what we’ve been able to do is great, and just so fortunate to work with so many special people on our team and now be part of a big organization with that many more special people, it’s really cool. People are everything that makes this sport and makes the team, so it’s really cool.”
Truex and Pearn claimed three wins in fives races once before in 2016. They also had stretches of three wins in six races in both 2017 and 2018.
Busch and Stevens have been together just as long as Truex and Pearn, being paired together in Cup since 2015 after two years together in Xfinity.
But they have 15 fewer Cup races than Truex and Pearn, a result of Busch missing the first 11 races in 2015 due to injury and Stevens missing four races in 2017 due to a suspension over a lug nut violation (Pearn missed one race for suspension in 2016).
Despite the fewer Cup races together, Busch and Stevens have five more wins, 11 more top fives and six more top 10s than Truex and Pearn.
While Busch hasn’t won since Bristol, he has remained stubbornly consistent. Busch has 12 top 10s in 13 races. The only blemish came at Kansas when Busch had an unscheduled pit stop late for a tire rub and finished 30th.
“We’re fortunate enough to have strong teammates that make us better and hopefully we can do the same for them,” Pearn said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We’ve got some really tough competitors just in this building.”
Last June, after Truex won at Sonoma Raceway, NBC Sports took a look at his and Pearn’s record after 123 starts together and compared it to other historic and active driver-crew chief pairings at the same point, including Busch and Stevens despite them being behind in terms of starts.
With help from Racing Insights, NBC Sports has an updated look at the pace of Truex and Pearn and Busch and Stevens through 156 and 141 starts respectively.
Truex and Pearn trail their JGR teammates, as well as the historic pairings of Darrell Waltrip/Jeff Hammond, Jeff Gordon/Ray Evernham and Dale Earnhardt/Kirk Shelmerdine.
They remain narrowly ahead of the pace established at the same time by eventual seven-time champions Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus, along with Tony Stewart/Greg Zipadelli and Brad Keselowski/Paul Wolfe.
However, when it comes to Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers, Truex and Pearn have them beat only in the wins category, with one more victory through 156 races.
See the complete state comparison below.
After 156 starts together