In a move that shocked the NASCAR world, Martin Truex Jr.âs crew chief, Cole Pearn, is walking away from NASCAR, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.
Pearn is one of the best crew chiefs in the business, and his chemistry with Truex is undeniable, as the pair won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship and have competed in the title race in four of their five years as a team. They also won a series high of seven races in 2019.
For 37-year-old Pearn, the decision is the latest example of how grueling NASCARâs 36-race schedule (plus two exhibition events) is for those on the road every week. It was a difficult decision, but it had an obvious answer, he explained on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday.
âI really planned on doing this at least a couple more years longer than just this year, but things change and your perspective changes,â Pearn said. âI think when we sat down as a family and figured out a way we could make it work, it was just a question of, âWell, what are we waiting for?â
âWhen you look back on your life, it was a choice between having years as a family or trying to get more trophies. And when you looked at it that way, it was just, the decision became a lot clearer.â
Pearn and Truex started together with Furniture Row Racing, what was once NASCARâs only Denver-based team. But after sponsor 5-hour ENERGY left the sport at the end of the 2018 season, the team folded, and Pearn and Truex moved to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019.
For the third straight year, they were among the Championship 4 contenders. But the No. 19 Toyota team made a rare and costly mistake during the championship race by accidentally switching the left and right tires during a pit stop. Truex was able to recover a bit on the track, but that likely cost him a second title.
âOur friendship is what matters most to me and Iâm happy that heâs doing whatâs best for him and his family,â Truex said in the team statementÂ about Pearn leaving NASCAR.
Although Pearn acknowledged everyone in the sport knows what theyâre getting into with the February-to-November schedule, it was starting to take a toll on him.
He said if the season was 20 races and not 38, heâd âprobablyâ still be a crew chief. But he added that this decision was âa long time coming.â
And his rationale for leaving NASCAR echos that of several other people who have or are about to call it quits, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who will retire after the 2020 season, and Paul Menard, who retired at the end of the 2019 season.
Pearn explained he wasnât ready to leave NASCAR after Furniture Row Racing closed up shop last year, but he realized heâs missing his children grow up.
âEverybody that works in the sport understands the grind of what the schedule is, and to do it at the top level, you gotta be all the way in,â Pearn said to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. âI was somehow making it work I think with our family before my kids got in school. And then once theyâre in school and youâve got a day off on a Thursday, it doesnât really matter. You pretty much go all week and you barely see them, and I didnât want to look back on my life and miss those moments.
âFor me to get the opportunity to work in racing has just been a dream come true, and then to have the success weâve had just blows my mind. I feel like from that standpoint, when you achieve more than youâve ever dreamt, you look at the other things in your life that youâre missing. And yeah, it just felt like it was time.â
âIâve got a seven and a five year old, and Iâm pretty sure when theyâre teenagers, theyâre not going to want anything to do with me. So if I actually want to enjoy the years where they think Iâm cool, I need to do it now.â
Pearn is Canadian and said he and his family plan to relocate back to the mountains in western Canada, and heâs âstoked about it.â
He also said he offered Joe Gibbs Racing a recommendation for his replacement.
âI definitely gave them my two cents on who I thought it should be. I think itâs probably the same thing as what they were thinking. âŠ I know from my standpoint, Iâm going to be the biggest 19 cheerleader there is and do whatever I can to help support them from the sideline.â