Furniture Row Racing crew chief Cole Pearn is accustomed to being a bit of an anomaly – in good ways, not bad.
He is a Canadian leading a championship charge in America’s premier auto sport. He is the only crew chief among the four championship-eligible – Rodney Childers, Adam Stevens and Paul Wolfe are the others – who has not been suspended this year for a technical violation.
Pearn also is the only one in the group who doesn’t already own a championship trophy.
He’d like to hoist his first high this weekend in the Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC)
“I consider that an accomplishment, for sure,” Pearn said, joking about this competition’s technical penalties. “I mean, we’ve done a good job of managing all that and just working ‑‑ doing our best within the rules and working with NASCAR when they ask you to change something, we’re quick to change it and make sure we’re in compliance.
“I think definitely something to be proud of, for sure,” he said adding with a smile, “I think this is my first year as a crew chief not even getting on probation, so that’s an accomplishment, I think.”
What Pearn has done goes well beyond the technical guidance that has helped his driver Martin Truex Jr. to a career year and elevated the team to a championship favorite thanks to its series-best seven wins and 25 top-10 finishes through the first 35 races of the season.
Furniture Row Racing is the only Cup team based outside the Southeast, operating in a nondescript, concrete building located outside Denver, Colorado. And while Pearn is one to consider the “different” locale a blessing, the team has weathered plenty of other challenges.
Just days after learning his best friend back home in Canada had died unexpectedly, Pearn led Truex and team to a victory at Watkins Glen, N.Y. In the months afterward, Pearn suffered through the loss of his family dog, a night before the team won at Kansas, one of the Furniture Row Racing on-the-road team members suffered a heart attack and died, and just last week, team owner and founder Barney Visser suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery forcing him off the road for what could be his beloved team’s first title hoist.
And this all is in addition to the understanding and support the organization has given Truex’s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who is so bravely battling ovarian cancer and getting chemotherapy even as the team makes its championship push.
For some, all the unimaginable adversity would be excuse to be off your game. For this group, under Pearn’s leadership, it is extra motivation to stay on top of your game and eye the big prize for doing so.
Achieving focus and staying positive is something this group has learned to live. The emotional hurdles, alone, have only strengthened their resolve and determination.
“You know, I wish a lot of times we haven’t had to go through the things we’ve had to go through, obviously, but I think they just made us all a lot closer and pulled our team together even that much tighter,” Pearn said. “I think for us, when you’re grieving and having to go through some of the things we’ve gone through, it just leads you to kind of pounding into your work a little bit harder and kind of using that to take your mind off the other things.
“I think that creates a little bit of resolve and a little bit more focus for us, and just really want us to push to continue to close this thing out. I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll be able to look back and reflect on this kind of crazy year that it’s been, and hopefully we’re doing it with a lot of bright spots, as well.”
After amassing a series best 60-point bonus cushion for the playoff run, the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota arrives in Homestead this week now on even playoff ground with the other three challengers. Best finish earns the championship.
“We kind of knew the format, we knew the deal, and we knew when we ‑‑ if we were fortunate enough to make it — that we’d be up against three guys, straight up,’’ Pearn said. “I think this race is definitely different than any race to this point this year, but from that standpoint, it’s just a matter of going out and doing the best we can.
“I think having the confidence to know that we can come back from issues early in the race like we’ve had in this playoff and rebounded and been able to close out wins I think gives you a lot of confidence, for sure.
“I think we’re ready to just go and make the most of it and hopefully just go out and just take it.”