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August 6, 2017

Joe Garone

Cole Pearn

Watkins Glen, New York

COLE PEARN: Really knowing, I was like, sure enough, we're going to have all this plan and we're going to get a caution at lap 52, and sure enough, we got a caution at lap 52. So that was that, and pretty much put ourselves in a fuel mileage mode. I think we ran hard early trying to get back through and get to the lead, and with the hope that maybe we'd get a yellow or whatever, but it kind of became clear that that wasn't going to come.
I had to be really disciplined and stick to what we needed to do and let those guys go at times, even though maybe a couple years ago we wouldn't make that move. But we've gotten better as a team and we've stuck to it, and we won a fuel mileage race, which is a pretty big accomplishment for us.
THE MODERATOR: Joe, can you tell us a little bit about what this means for the team.
JOE GARONE: First of all, let me clear up I'm not the owner because I don't want to get stuck with the bills, and I'll get stuck with them if Barney hears that. Barney couldn't make it; it's another one of those events he wasn't able to make, and here we won. But it's huge.
I think I heard Cole earlier saying you're kind of up on a wave, and when you can get a win, it helps keep you up there for sure. We just have to keep our focus on what we're doing day‑to‑day and ride it all the way to the end here.

Q. Cole, could you talk a little bit about the way the team has been able to win throughout the year? It hasn't been you won here and now where are you guys or vice versa, but you guys have really had a very high sustaining performance.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I think it's just a product of everybody we've got in our organization. Every week you wipe the week off from the week before and get back to it, and I think we feel like we're really in a position we can win every race and compete every week. So when you have that mindset, it's not like you're picking and choosing tracks to put extra effort in, we're putting effort in every week, and I think that's why we've been able to just stay consistently good and be able to contend for wins on a weekly basis.

Q. And just to follow up, I don't want to upset you, but I know on television you were speaking, it's been an emotional week for you. Could you touch on it a little bit?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, it's been probably the hardest week of my life. But I don't know, it's still‑‑ it's not over yet. I lost my best friend growing up this week. He caught a random bacterial infection from a cut and basically died in a day. It's not like he was sick. I talked to him the day before. They were coming to Michigan next weekend. So just doesn't seem real still. He's got two little boys that are not going to know their dad pretty much. I don't know, we'll get through it as a group. We were lucky to have an unbelievable friend support and family around that will make sure everybody is all right.
But he was a heart‑of‑gold guy that‑‑ I don't know, I still haven't come to terms with it, to be honest.

Q. Cole, Martin said on pit road after the race that letting guys go by and giving up the lead was probably the hardest thing he's had to do in racing. Did you have to do any convincing to get him to slow down and do that?
COLE PEARN: He knew it in my voice that that's what we needed to do. It's a product of our relationship, the fact that you can be like, hey, this is what we need to do, and he's like, okay. We don't squabble. We don't argue. He knows that when we're telling him, that's the truth. He did it even though it was hard to do. He's a smart guy and knew the situation we were in and did the right thing.
I think, like I said earlier, two years ago I don't know that we'd win that race, but he did things right today to get there.

Q. Cole, can you tell me what it's like with those last few laps? Going over the calculations over and over again, were you confident that you had done it right, or were you biting your fingernails there?
COLE PEARN: I was biting my fingernails. There was pretty much zero confidence. We knew we ran pretty hard early in the run trying to get through those guys to get to the lead and probably used more fuel than we would have known if we were going to run green the whole time. You start that run thinking, oh, there's probably odds of a caution. That's kind of how it goes here. If you get a caution you're going to get a lot of them, and we didn't get any. It kind of was looking that way and definitely was pretty nervous.

Q. Cole, your pit strategy, going with a two‑stop race, had nothing to do with the change in the pit crew guys, did it?
COLE PEARN: No, just definitely thought the way the stages‑‑ it's kind of odd with the stages at a road course. It actually makes strategy somewhat easier, especially here with lack of tire falloff because of the repave. It was pretty clear that's what we wanted to do, so we just committed to pitting at the end of the first stage and then we knew‑‑ our original plan was to top like 57, 58, something like that, and give ourselves some room for at least one overtime stab at it or whatever. I said‑‑ before the race I told everybody, I said, it's going to screw it up, we'll have a caution at 52, and that's what happened.
Anyway, yeah, we just‑‑ nothing to do with the pit crew for sure. Honestly, I haven't seen the stop data, but I think they were one of the best crews on pit road today and just did an unbelievable job today like they did last week.

Q. Also, is there less pressure doing it when you already have three wins and you know you're in the playoffs, and if you finish 20th you've lost five‑‑ potentially five playoff points, but‑‑
COLE PEARN: I don't think so. I mean, you've worked your whole life to get to this level and be in a spot to compete for wins. I know everybody on our team loves racing, and we're all very lucky to be at this level. You've got an opportunity to win a race, it hurts just as bad no matter the situation. We want to win them all. I mean, you never know when you're going to get this opportunity again.
We've run pretty badly at times together, too, so to be running as good as we are and to be able to capitalize on wins just makes it as nerve‑racking as it is to win the first race.

Q. With the separation that you guys have put on the rest of the field, particularly Kyle Larson who was the other really hot team at the beginning of the year, do you allow yourselves to think, we're the championship favorites now, and either way, with the short amount of regular season races left, does that change how you approach being ready when the playoffs start?
COLE PEARN: Not really. I don't think with the one‑race championship world that we're in, you can consider yourself a championship favorite. Really it's all about who wins Homestead. I think we feel like we've got a good shot to make it to Homestead for sure, but really, to say you're a championship favorite in a one‑race format is‑‑ you just can't say that.
I think, yeah, we're a favorite to make it for sure, but I want to look back on this year and win as many races as possible so if we blow up at lap 2 or wreck at lap 2 at Homestead, you don't look back on your year as a disappointment, so I think going into the year we really just wanted to do as well as we could all year and enjoy it and whatever happens at the end of the year happens at the end of the year.

Q. Cole, Martin kind of went to both ends of the spectrum both with backing off to let Keselowski and Blaney go and then on the last lap having to put some really good moves to fend off Kenseth; where would you rank this drive for Martin in the time you've been with him?
COLE PEARN: It was one of his best for sure. The 18 was really good early on, but we knew we were the next best car. I think we got our car definitely better after the first pit stop, and for whatever reason, that first set of tires we struggled with it in qualifying, struggled with it on the first run for whatever reason. But for him to have the discipline to do that and then at the same time you're at a road course, you know, just saving fuel on an oval is one thing but trying to save fuel at a road course is a whole different animal because it's all about braking hard and accelerating here. Trying to do it here is a unique challenge, and for him to be able to do that and stay disciplined, I think that's a huge accomplishment for him. I think you look back at his career, how many races he's lost on fuel mileage, too. To pull it together and get to Victory Lane was pretty awesome.

Q. It seems like NASCAR is maybe officiating these races a little bit differently after there was an outcry at Michigan in June. Do you take that into account when you're planning your strategy for these races?
COLE PEARN: I don't know if I can speak to that. I don't think so. You know, I don't know. You just always stay open for the scenarios. You're on the scenario you're on and then you think about if this happens what do we do and if this happens what do we do. You play the hand you're dealt at the time and then if it changes you adapt. I think if anything experience has taught me and taught the team it's just really being fluid and stay fresh and able to make the decision when the situation changes. It's so easy to get locked into a plan and thinking that's your only plan, but when it changes you've got to be able to adapt.

Q. Knowing that Kenseth kind of needs‑‑ could really use the win to make the playoffs, were you thinking, man, he's going to make it interesting, or were you thinking, oh, he's still looking for a ride for next year so maybe he won't make it too interesting?
COLE PEARN: I don't know if I got that deep into thought, but I was just like, man, just keep it about three car lengths away, I don't want him to be ‑‑ end up in the fence or whatever. I was thinking about it for sure. And he did right. We kept it far enough away to avoid the suicide bomber attack. But we did the right thing.

Q. Can you just talk about Erik Jones, picked up his second top 10 today, looks like he's really coming along, and to do that against the crowd that was up in the field was fairly impressive?
JOE GARONE: Absolutely. I thought he did a great job, in particular here on a road course. When he went to Sonoma, it had been the first time he'd even seen the racetrack, and although he has some races here, he's still‑‑ to run up front, run with the cars that he was running was great. He's had a real up‑and‑down year, and it seems like it is getting a lot better for him right now.
COLE PEARN: I think it's because I ripped his ass after Sonoma.
JOE GARONE: Yeah, I'm sure. And for the team side, we didn't help him out at Sonoma, either. No, he was complaining about hating road course racing. I told him he had a long career ahead of him and he'd better get to like it because he's going to race there two times a year every year.
COLE PEARN: He came here with a much better attitude, that's for sure.
JOE GARONE: But globally, he's doing terrific, and it does look like he's finishing up here strong.

Q. It seems like you don't have to teach him speed, you have to teach him fundamentals; is that accurate?
JOE GARONE: I think that's accurate, yeah. He's very talented.
COLE PEARN: Just for them to go through the week they've had, to come out here and run as well as they did at a road course is‑‑ I'm as excited for them as I am for us.
JOE GARONE: Absolutely. James stepping in and doing what he did at the last moment here is just terrific really.
COLE PEARN: We're the first international crew chief team this week.
JOE GARONE: That's right, we had a Canadian and Australian running the show.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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