The realization that it was time to walk away from racing became clear to Cole Pearn when it was a choice between more years with his family versus trying to win more trophies.
“I really planned on doing this at least a couple more years longer than just this year, but it’s just things change, and your perspective changes, and that’s just kind really how the year went,” said Pearn on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When we sat down as a family and figured out a way we could make it work, it was just a question, ‘Well, what are we waiting for?’”
Pearn leaves NASCAR with 24 wins in 179 races as a crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and one championship (2017). It was 2015 when Pearn was promoted from race engineer to the crew chief overseeing Martin Truex Jr.’s team at Furniture Row Racing.
Pearn cited his family as the primary motivation behind his decision when his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing was announced on Monday afternoon. During his interview with SiriusXM, Pearn not only reiterated that, but shot down any speculation it was because of the difficulty transiting to Gibbs from Furniture Row, or that the sanctioning body is introducing a new car in 2021.
“It’s been kind of a long time coming,” said Pearn. “We’ve been talking about it among our family for a bit, and just decided it was time. It was tough to kind of leave it and keep it quiet and stuff like that, but with the 18 [Kyle Busch] winning the championship and stuff, I just kind of wanted the company to enjoy all that time and get through that, and then come and talk about this.”
Pearn is the father of two young children aged five and seven. He revealed his family would be moving to the Canadian mountains to bring the outdoors back into their life. Pearn is a Canadian native; Canada, his children, who were born in Denver, have dual citizenship.
“If I’m going to enjoy the years where they think I’m cool, I need to do it now,” said Pearn.
“I think everybody that works in the sport understands what the grind of the schedule is. To do it at the top level, you’ve got to be all the way in. For me to get the opportunity to work in racing is just been a dream come true, and then to have the success that we’ve had just blows my mind.
“I feel like from that standpoint, when you’ve achieved more than you’ve ever dreamed, you look at the other things in your life that you’re missing. It felt like it was time.”
The news caught many within the NASCAR community by surprise, including within the Gibbs organization. Although Pearn and Truex had been paired together for five years and alliance partners of Gibbs since ’16, the duo had moved in-house at Gibbs this year.
Pearn guided Truex to a series-leading seven wins in ’19 and a runner-up effort in the championship. It was the second straight year they finished second in points. In their five years together, Pearn and Truex finished the seasons fourth, 11th, first, second, and second.
“There’s no easy way to deliver that news, especially with people you respect and care about,” said Pearn of telling Truex and Joe Gibbs. “It was really hard, and something I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over, trying to think about the best way to do it. But at the end of the day it was just being honest and just speaking from the heart was the way to do it, and they’re both amazing people, so they took it as best as I think anybody could.”
A new crew chief for the No. 19 team will be announced at a later date. Pearn said he gave his two cents about who should be his successor, and felt it aligned with what the company was already thinking.
But for Pearn himself, the future is wide open. Aside from being the “biggest 19 cheerleader,” he isn’t closing the door on perhaps doing consulting work sometime down the line. But for now, he is going to let the dust settle before he figures out what’s next.
And Pearn leaves NASCAR content with what he accomplished.
“I’m beyond thrilled,” he said, “and I can rest my head pretty easy knowing the type of career I had.”