By Yvette VanDerBrink For a Car Guy or Gal, you never forget your first car. There’s something genetically ingrained in a collector’s DNA that gets the gears going and stirs up the desire to go fast and love cars.Glimpses of the car gene started to make themselves know at a young age in Tom. His mother said that at 3-years-old he was looking at cars. If his dad or grandfather […]
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That call to pit? Forget it, we’re staying out. Cole Pearn- the crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. and the 78 car- helped deliver the win for his team. The call enabled Truex to obliterate the field at the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Sunday by ten seconds! Wham!
How many times has Cole Pearn been a factor in a 78 win? I don’t have an exact figure, but the number continues to climb higher. Not to dismiss the talents of Truex, but remember that 16 of his 18 victories have come since 2015. Let this sink in: win number one came at Dover in 2007, then the second win wouldn’t follow until 2013 at Sonoma. For years, Truex looked the part of a solid journeyman who wouldn’t races, but wouldn’t embarrass you either. It all changed when the pairing of Pearn and Truex came together at Furniture Row Racing.
For years, it’s been Chad Knaus that has worn the mantle of being NASCAR’s resident “evil genius.” Knaus on more than one occasion pushed Jimmie Johnson and the 48 car to victory. Say what you will, Knaus has been solid gold in the same vein as a Ray Evernham or a Dale Inman. Cole Pearn has earned the full trust of his driver, and if you understand the mentality of the racer, then you knwo that says a lot.
Martin Truex Jr. says there’s no hesitation to go with what Cole Pearn recommends. His calls don’t succeed at a 100 percent rate. Every now and again, his gambles burn his team, but it’s rare. Sunday- Pearn looked like a master puppeteer.
We’ve spent a lot of time focused on the value of teamwork of late. The winning call at the Toyota Save Mart 350 is Exhibit A. Everyone on the 78 team played a part.
Topping the likes of Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer won’t be easy. Having said that, Martin Truex Jr. has a not-so-secret weapon.
Today, “Silly Season” no longer just applies to NASCAR teams. The scramble to complete the personnel and funding picture now applies to the governing body itself. At least the funding part. This will get interesting as we see whether or not the coming paradigm shift will affect finding sponsors for individual teams. It no doubt will on some level.
With the information we have so far, the notion of a single title sponsor seems to be going away once Monster Energy concludes its current run. On the table is the idea of a handful of NASCAR sponsors at varying tiers. So we’re looking at something like four to six major sponsors, and yet more at lower tiers requiring less of an investment. It’s something I used to see a lot in the advertising game. A kind of a “gold, silver, bronze” system where the more you spend, the more you get.
It’s a sure sign that NASCAR really isn’t what it was for a brief period of time in it’s popularity. To their credit, instead of cursing the wind, or hoping the winds will change, they’re adjusting the sails. Essentially, it’s a matter of getting the perceived value to meet the proposed cost where NASCAR sponsors are concerned. Going forward, as sponsors come and go, replacing a 10 million dollar sponsor is easier than replacing a 20 million dollar sponsor. Put another way, many hands make lighter work.
Names like Monster, Coca-Cola and Mobil are being bandied about for major involvement. Ok, so that will work. The question now is one of how will get new NASCAR sponsors affect individual teams in their pursuit of corporate funding.
There’s a finite number of dollars to go around. If Coca-Cola becomes a top tier sponsor, how will it affect the “Coca-Cola family of drivers?” Sponsorship value is very much predicated on the number of eyeballs drawn to the sport. What would behoove a Monster to be a NASCAR sponsor AND a sponsor of a driver at the same time? You see where this is going?
Most every answer raises with it new questions. The tricky part is that as NASCAR has lost popularity, sponsors have been lost as well. We’re not saying it can’t work, but it may mean one adjustment will be followed by several more.
1969 Charger R/T pic.twitter.com/BB0ijTx3AE
In some racing museum somewhere, you may find an endangered species. Typically, this species had its origins in sports cars series or perhaps some form of open wheel racing. Critics would argue that NASCAR racing on road courses is like a pig doing ballet.
Among the old time legends of the sport, you would struggle to find one proficient at road course racing. Dale Earnhardt won only once on a road course- at Watkins Glen. By comparison- Richard Petty had six, Bobby Allison five, and David Pearson four. To be fair, short tracks ruled during the salad days of most of these drivers.
When road courses appeared on the schedule, the now endangered specie known as the “road course ringer” appeared. Dan Gurney was one of the originals. In more recent lore, there was Boris Said, Scott Pruett and Ron Fellows. Even though he never won in the Cup series, Said has long been considered a road course racing guru to the full-timers.
While some modern day drivers have not embraced racing on tracks of right and left turns, many top contenders now consider a win at a track like Sonoma or Watkins Glen a badge of honor. Heck, one recent article reveals that Clint Bowyer calls Sonoma his “favorite track.” Yes, Clint Bowyer- hardly your stereotypical road course guy.
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were among the best at road courses with their open wheel backgrounds. Kyle Busch has multiple wins at such tracks. Kevin Harvick is usually a contender. AJ Allmendinger- a former champ car driver- is a journeyman who emerges from the crowd when road courses pop up on the schedule.
Nowadays, being a top driver on a road course is a sign you’re a true championship contender. It means you’re in a position to win anywhere. Because of aerodynamics being what they are, a number of fans who wouldn’t ordinarily consider themselves road course fans suddenly love it for the quality of racing.
It’s one more sign that this isn’t your daddy’s NASCAR.
“Merry Christmas, Clint Bowyer.” I’m sure many of you were thinking just that after last Sunday’s race at Michigan. By virtue of being in the right place at the right time, Kansas Clint walks away a winner for the second time this season. Some would say the win was pure luck. Really? Let’s talk about this.
Before we dismiss this win as somehow tainted, consider this: that in order to finish first, you must first finish. NASCAR races and racing in general is test of survival. Otherwise, they would just do 10 lap sprints. If Bowyer pancakes the wall earlier in the race, he’s not there for the opportunity at the end.
How about this? How does such a winner get there? To be a winner, you have to be up front. Teamwork came into play for Bowyer’s win. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz made the call for a two tire stop instead of four after stage two. The gamble paid off. It could very well have gone the other way. That last stop has to be properly executed to make it work. A fumbled lug nut or pit road speeding makes it all moot.
Speaking of which, it took driving talent on the part of Bowyer to make it work on the track. If he overdrives the car, the whatever good is left on the older tires is run off and Kevin Harvick passes his teammate. You ever thought about the balancing a driver must do in terms of airing it out and not overdriving the car? It’s not as easy as you think.
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. That’s what Seneca said. In other words, to be lucky, you must first be good. A winner make their own luck. Every once in a while, a blind squirrel finds a nut. In 2018, Clint Bowyer is no blind and the gang at Stewart-Haas Racing are sure getting lucky a lot.