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July 8, 2017

Cole Pearn

Sparta, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Cole Pearn, crew chief of the race‑winning No.78 Furniture Row Toyota. Cole, outstanding race by the 78, and it's a normal thing now, 28 playoff points in the bank. Talk about that and the race tonight.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, obviously we've been on a good stretch here. Obviously we got crashed last week at Daytona and blew a motor at Sonoma. But really, going back to our win in Kansas, we've been on a really good stretch of being able to contend for wins every week, and I felt like last year running a similar rules package here, we had a really good car, as well.
When things are going right and you have a good baseline to work off, it was definitely‑‑ boded well for confidence, and we really hit it well tonight.

Q. If you were running second to a guy 15 seconds ahead of you, what would you be thinking?
COLE PEARN: I would have been doing the opposite when that caution came, I know that. So I knew‑‑ I don't know, I knew there were so many lap cars in between us all when that yellow came that they were just going to do whatever we did, and I was going to have to make a call and they were going to have plenty of time to think about it by the time they had to hit pit road. I just figured if we were going to come in and pit, you were going to have three or four of them at least stay out and then all of a sudden you were going to be buried and no chance you were going to get there in two laps. Being on old tires out front wasn't a great situation, but it was the better of the two.

Q. I really meant on the track before you saw the caution came out, if you saw somebody 15 seconds ahead of you, what would you be thinking?
COLE PEARN: I'd say we need to get our work together. But I mean, the 42 was strong all night. He just had a lot of up and downs where I don't think he was able to really show the speed at times. But the way he was able to drive through the field, he was definitely a contender. We qualified well. We made good pit stops, made the right strategy calls, and just kept it up there all night.

Q. I know that having the fastest car certainly helps, but 12 stage wins, no one else is even close. I think you have three times as many as the next closest driver. Is it by strategy? Tonight you guys took the lead at the end of the first stage. Is this a strategic thing or just a byproduct of having a really fast car all the time?
COLE PEARN: I think a lot of it comes down to qualifying well. I think if you look at our qualifying averages, we've been really stout that way. Definitely our best as a team. I think having good track position to start the race is a huge, important part of it, and you're able to maintain that, it makes it a lot easier to score stage points for sure.
We were fortunate to have a good long‑run car tonight. Early in the race, I thought the 18 was maybe a little better on the short run. It just took a long time for him to wear down a bit and we were able to keep digging. I don't know, I don't know that there's any strategy to it or not. I think there's definitely a few of those stage wins we've had to make strategy calls to get, but tonight that second stage was sketchy at times with staying out, at times we were up to five laps short and you didn't know if you were going to make it. Having the cautions we did, Martin did a good job saving fuel and we were able to make it there. So I think for us that was probably the most difficult stage for sure.

Q. You're going to start the playoffs with probably at least 30 points‑‑
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I don't think you can have enough. I mean, the best way to get a lead is to keep winning them and not let other people win them. I think when we blew a motor at Talladega last fall and took us out of the Chase and we were having a great season, when this format came about, it was definitely like, all right, this is an opportunity for us to give ourselves a window to have a bad race in the Chase and still be able to make it through.
The more we have, the better it is, especially when you get down to that round of eight. You're going to have eight guys that are probably pretty good playoff point wise, so it's going to not necessarily be easy. That gap may seem big to the guys at 16th, but when you get down around eighth that gap is not going to be as big. The more we can get, the better, I think.

Q. I asked Joe in here, and he said chemistry is the reason why you guys are so good, but how are you able to take a car from Joe Gibbs Racing, which was the dominant team for sure last year, and doesn't have a win this year and can't put something together it seems like and then go out there and have such success with your organization out in Colorado of all things?
COLE PEARN: It's difficult at times. I feel like a lot of times we're hanging on by a thread, but it's just the way it is. We've got a group out there that we've been together for a while, and we've been through the lows and we've sucked, and we've had those moments where it's tested all of us. But when you stick together and you're all out there, you're not worrying about somebody running down the street to go to a different place for a better deal, it just breeds a lot of chemistry. It breeds family, actually. I think we're all there together, whether it's work struggles or personal life struggles, we all work together. It's definitely a family atmosphere. When you get everybody committed and a group of people like that committed to the same goal, it's a unique opportunity for sure.

Q. As good as Martin made it, as easy as he made it look, was there ever a concern about anything really going on, maybe throwing too much out there early during any of his runs?
COLE PEARN: I really thought early on, I was like, um, I don't know, I thought we were almost a third‑place car the first couple runs of the race, and then it seems as the night came and the track cooled down a bit, we got stronger. Really at that point you're just‑‑ you're not trying to overthink it, you're trying to make sure you stick to the plan, and we were able to do that. I mean, he did a great job.
We've lost a lot of fuel‑mileage situations in the last few years, and I think that's a product of being in contention to win races. It makes you better at winning races because when you lose them in a lot of different forms, you focus on that and get better, and we were able to be good in a fuel‑mileage situation, which I think is a huge boost for his confidence and for our team.

Q. Cole, obviously you guys have had a fantastic 2017 season. When you joined this team, did you think or imagine you guys would be this dominant? Is this surprising to you in any way?
COLE PEARN: I don't know. I mean, I kind of got the personality where we just keep working. I mean, obviously those are moments you're like, wow, we've got a good thing going. But it's just fun. I mean, we beat each other up. Everybody is equal, and everybody is equal to get beat on. We just keep each other honest and make sure we're all pulling our weight. I think when you've got a whole team like that, it's just really fun.

Q. You said there are some days you feel like you're hanging by a thread; what are those days like, and why?
COLE PEARN: It's tough in Colorado. I mean, we've got to load a day early most weeks, so we work closely with JGR and obviously they've got a day ahead of us, so our Monday and Tuesdays are pretty much hair on fire most weeks, so it's amazing sometimes I feel like we make it to the racetrack, but when we do, we're generally good.
Even this week, just having Daytona cars had to leave early and then we just had a little bit more time on the Kentucky cars, and you just feel like, all right, we're not missing anything, and you feel like you're in good shape. It's a challenge being out there that far, especially these last few weeks with road course cars and speedway cars and then back to a mile‑and‑a‑half. It's a lot of different cars going through the system, especially with two teams now. It's just double the work, and really it falls on a lot of our key people. So I can't speak highly enough of the effort they've had to put in. There's been a lot, a lot of long hours on our group, and just to get this win for them, it's just retribution to keep them digging.

Q. Do you all build your own chassis?

Q. As dominant as you've been on intermediate tracks, do you think that just bodes tremendously well for the Chase?
COLE PEARN: Maybe. I mean, I don't know. I think it always feels like the Chase the second time around is a lot different. I look at our performances last year, I always feel like we do really well in the early section of the mile‑and‑a‑halfs and then maybe not quite as good come Chase time. I don't know why that is, but it's definitely something we're focused on and will continue to work to get better at. I don't think any of those are guaranteed. This is a tough competition in this garage, and I'm sure it's not going to be this‑‑ I don't want to say easy, but this far apart maybe when we come Chase time.

Q. Cole, was this a new car for this race or one that you had run before? And if not, will we see it again back on the track at another mile‑and‑a‑half coming up?
COLE PEARN: I think we ran this one in Pocono. It was new at Pocono. We call it the Demon Car, ironically. I feel like every time we've had it out, it's been something weird, steering feels weird or something silly all weekend we've had to fight with. We blew a motor up in practice only running like seven laps because it was so horrible at Pocono, and then we came here and it was kind of weird off the truck, too. I don't know, it got nicknamed the Demon Car somehow, but I don't know when the next time it's out. Not for a while, though, probably.

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