With the rumbling of engines and roaring of fans working together in sync like the force of a speed metal band every weekend, NASCAR has to be considered the most rock ‘n roll, man of all major American sports.
I mean, the literal description for speed metal is “extremely fast, abrasive and technically demanding.” Sound familiar?
And Cole Pearn — the T-shirt-wearing, backcountry-skiing, hockey-playing Furniture Row Racing crew chief from Canada — might just be the embodiment of the perfect front man.
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. was asked at the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway if his crew chief held “rock star status in his mind.”
Truex deadpanned, “To me, yes.”
Heck, Pearn even has a T-shirt with his face on it and the nickname “Pearn Star” (that goes surprisingly well over a tuxedo), courtesy of our own @nascarcasm. If that isn’t as rawk as it gets, I don’t know what is.
He’s basically the next Neil Young or Geddy Lee, if they were ever to put on a headset atop a pit box.
“I don’t know about that (laughs),” Pearn told NASCAR.com. “You just do the best you can do and try as hard as you can and that’s really all you can do. I guess that’s for other people to decide on that.
“I think really our team as a whole is put together really well and we work well together. A lot of times I get the credit, but there’s a lot of people involved in that success, for sure.”
Alright, so maybe not the front man, but perhaps the mild-mannered bassist off to the side who secretly stays up at night writing all the songs and keeps everyone in time together on stage. Either way, he’s leading the charge and setting the tone.
And finding that abrasive, extreme speed.
“He’s relentless,” said Truex, who paired with Pearn for a series-high eight wins in 2017. “His work ethic and what he’s willing to do; he’ll do anything to win and to be competitive and get the job done. You know, him and all of our guys feed on that, whether it’s the shop guys or the road guys or even the pit crew. They feed off of that, and it’s been a big reason for our success.”
If the crew feeds off Pearn’s energy, then then the old saying is right — you are what you eat. Because the whole team is full of people that have that same drive.
“I think what’s fortunate about our group is there’s a lot of people that have that (machine-like work ethic) attitude,” Pearn said. “So you get a group of people with that similar never-give-up, relentless attitude then you all motivate each other and you all pick up each other and before long you’re way further ahead than any of you would be on your own.
“I’m really fortunate that, yeah, I’m like that, but we’ve got a lot of other people like that as well.”
That mentality sets quite the example for other teams across NASCAR, particularly the No. 78 Toyota’s competitors at the Monster Energy Series level.
Furniture Row was in a class of its own throughout all of 2017, with 19 stage wins paving the path to Truex’s first championship.
“I think the whole style is just trying to go faster than everybody else. I don’t know that there’s really any strategy,” said Pearn, a former NASCAR Pinty’s Series driver, himself. “ I think we were fortunate enough to qualify well most weeks and run up front which typically bodes well in the stages. … I don’t think anything changes from that standpoint.”
Either way, it’s apparent the old “underdog” title Furniture Row Racing seemed to be anointed with for so long is completely shed — championships tend to do that — and instead it’s now whatever the speed-metal equivalent of a Grammys-sweeping Bruno Mars is. Every other artist/driver/team is aiming to dethrone the champs.
Don’t expect anything to change in the FRR shop, however. Cole and the Pearn Stars never saw themselves in that dark horse light, anyway.
“I don’t think we ever really looked at ourselves as the underdogs. We always felt like we were as capable as anybody and in a great situation, especially since we were fortunate enough to get in with Toyota and be able to work with Joe Gibbs Racing. It really made it seem like running well on a weekly basis was definitely possible,” he said.
“I think we continue to have that confidence.”
And if there’s one thing all rock stars have in common, it’s confidence.