Finishing out the 2018 West coast swing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Martin Truex, Jr., and his No. 78 team are back in Victory Lane for the first time since celebrating their championship back at Homestead. But it’s the first time Truex, crew chief, Cole Pearn and the rest of the team could celebrate with their owner, Barney Visser after his 2017 heart attack late in the season.
Holding a Candle to Harvick
Visser said early in the season, watching Harvick run away with everything, had the Furniture Row Racing team wondering exactly where they were in terms of performance.
“I wish he would have not had the problems he had today and we could have run him again,” Visser said.
“I think we had something for him today. We won’t know for a few weeks here where we’re at.”
Keys to Returning to Victory Lane
Crew chief, Cole Pearn said the key to returning to Victory Lane was all about getting the new 2018 rules package sorted out.
“We knew early on we just really weren’t where we wanted to be,” Pearn said.
“But we weren’t bad. It was just a matter of getting those last little bits.”
Pearn said the recent race weekend was the first week of the season where things were making a little more sense.
“We had a lot better plan going into the day,” Pearn said.
Returning to a Single-Car Shop
For the 2017 season, the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing added a second car — the No. 77 piloted by Erik Jones. Jones has since moved to FRR partner Joe Gibbs Racing, taking over the No. 20. The reduction back to a single car team hasn’t hurt the No. 78 group, according to Pearn.
“I think for us it’s really no different,” Pearn said.
“You always kind of focus. We operate in such a small window of stuff that’s really focused on Martin. Whether we had one car or two cars, we were really focused on our one car.”
But Pearn said it is less information coming in.
“In the same sense, it’s easier in the shop now just having to prepare two cars a week instead of four. It’s a lot more time and detail can go into them. For us, being a small team, it’s not a bad problem at all.”
After 13 cars failed to pass inspection before the Auto Club Speedway race, NASCAR is implementing new rules starting next week at Martinsville Speedway. But Pearn said their team can’t do any more than they are already doing.
“You do everything you possibly can every week to pass tech,” Pearn said.
“That’s the first goal of everything. When things don’t go your way, you struggle with something, you fail or whatever, it’s so unintentional. That’s what’s really hard.”
Pearn said teams will now get penalized more, but the intent is still the same.
“It’s a difficult position the teams are in,” Pearn said.
“At the end of the day, I think what happened on Friday is a lot of teams had issues. Just because a lot of teams had issues, guys that had small issues had trouble getting through. 18 failed one time and they barely made qualifying passing the second time.”
Other Teams’ Effects on Inspection
Pearn said that often other teams failing inspection affects the time others have to get through inspection.
“It’s just really, really hard,” Pearn said.
“The level of detail they’re inspecting the cars at is so small, so tight, you’re doing everything you possibly can,” he said.
The MENCS returns to the East coast this coming weekend, racing at the shortest track on the schedule, Martinsville Speedway. Martin Truex, Jr. will look to make it two in a row, and to be the second driver to celebrate multiple wins in 2018. Qualifying for Martinsville is at 5:00 pm ET on Saturday, with the green flag dropping Sunday around 2:15 pm ET. Television coverage is on Fox Sports 1.