Cole Pearn steps down as Martin Truex Jr.'s crew chief

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Cole Pearn (L) and Martin Truex Jr. have won 22 races over the past four seasons. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Cole Pearn (L) and Martin Truex Jr. have won 22 races over the past four seasons. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will have a new crew chief in 2020.

Cole Pearn said in a surprising announcement Monday that he was resigning from his position as Truex’s crew chief and leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to do something outside of NASCAR. Pearn has been Truex’s crew chief since 2015 and the two immediately embarked on a five-year run of success second only to Kyle Busch and his crew chief Adam Stevens.

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“This was an incredibly difficult decision,” Pearn said in a team statement. “At the end of the day, I really want to spend time with my family and actually see my kids grow up. Being on the road, you are away from home so much and miss a lot of time with your family. I don’t want to miss that time anymore. I want to be there for all the things that my kids are going to experience while they are still young. I love racing and there isn’t a better place to be than Joe Gibbs Racing, but I don’t want to look back in 20 years and think about everything I missed with my wife and kids while I was gone. They are what is most important to me.”

Truex has 24 wins since 2015

Truex struggled in his first year at Furniture Row Racing in 2014 after he had to leave Michael Waltrip Racing when the team lost NAPA as a sponsor because of its 2013 Richmond race manipulation scheme.

Truex and Pearn were paired together in 2015 and things really took off in 2016 when Truex won four races. He had won two races combined in his previous 10 full-time seasons.

The duo’s best season came in 2017 when Truex won eight races and the championship. Truex was dominant that season, leading over 2,200 laps and finishing in the top 10 in 26 of 36 races.

Truex won four races in 2018 but with sponsor 5-Hour Energy leaving Furniture Row (and NASCAR altogether), the team shut down at the end of the season.

That left Truex without a team once again and he and Pearn moved to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 car. They picked up right where they left off at Furniture Row, winning seven races and finishing in the top 10 in 24 races in 2019.

The season didn’t end with a title, however. Truex finished second to Busch because of a mid-race pit stop mixup. Truex had the race’s dominant car at the start of the race but lost a ton of track position that he ultimately never made up after the pit crew but the left front wheel on the right front and the right front wheel on the left front during a pit stop.

“I cannot say enough good things about Cole and what he has meant for my career,” Truex said. “I appreciate his hard work and dedication to our race team over the past six years going back to when he was my engineer at Furniture Row. Our friendship is what matters most to me and I’m happy that he’s doing what’s best for him and his family.”

Truex should be a title contender again in 2020

JGR didn’t announce a replacement for Pearn in the Monday announcement, but no matter who Pearn’s successor ends up being it’s a safe bet that Truex will be one of the drivers to beat for the 2020 championship.

Joe Gibbs Racing was the dominant team of the 2019 season as Truex, Denny Hamlin, Busch and Erik Jones combined to win 19 of 36 races. No team in NASCAR’s multi-car team era had ever won more than half of the races in a season. And JGR enters a 2020 season with minimal rules changes as the team to beat once again.

Whoever ends up replacing Pearn will have a lofty standard to uphold, especially when it comes to strategy. Pearn had established himself as one of the two or three best crew chiefs in the garage and was an exceptional race strategist. His pit calls were vital to many of Truex’s wins over the last four years as he not only set up fast cars for a fast driver but put him in optimal positions to succeed.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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