On Monday, Cole Pearn made what is perhaps the most surprising announcement so far in the off-season. Citing a desire to stay home with his family more, he is retiring from Joe Gibbs Racing before the start of the 2020 season.
Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. were the most successful active driver and crew chief combination with 24 wins, 70 top-fives, and 110 top 10 finishes. They also claimed the pole 12 times in the tenure together, although their best 2019 start was third on four occasions.
Pearn led Truex to one championship in 2017 and runner-up finishes in the points in 2018 and 2019.
Pearn was promoted to crew chief at Furniture Row in 2015 when Truex joined the organization. The chemistry between crew chief and driver was so strong that Joe Gibbs Racing hired both in the off-season between 2018 and 2019 to take over the No. 19 when Barney Visser decided to shutter the No. 78.
“I cannot say enough good things about Cole and what he has meant for my career,” Truex said in a statement at NBC Sports. “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.”
In 2019 things were great but not perfect at the No. 19. After getting off to a bad start in the Daytona 500 with a crash-induced 35th-place finish, Truex went on a five-race, top-10 run. He finished second twice – including once in the Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta – but he would have to wait until Week 9 for his first victory at Richmond.
Once that first victory came, Truex seesawed with first-place finishes alternating with results outside the top 15 in the next five races. This created some frustration in the team and among fantasy players.
Truex was expected to be the top performer most weeks on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but after finishing second in Atlanta, he scored only one more top-five in the next six races on this track type. That came in a topsy-turvy Coke 600.
Truex made up for that with an improved performance on courses less than a mile in length.
Pearn and Truex finally broke into Victory Lane on a short track in 2019 with a sweep of Richmond and a dominant performance during the playoffs at Martinsville.
In route to his second-place finish in the points last year, Truex led the league in victories with seven. He finished in the top five on 15 occasions and in the top 10 24 times.
Truex loses quite a bit with Pearn’s departure. While the crew chief was more than capable of fielding a dominant car, he was also one of the most imaginative men on top of the box and scored his fair share of wins with strategy calls.
An announcement about Pearn’s replacement has not yet been made.