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November 19, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by our 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief, and in place of our owner, the president of Furniture Row racing, Joe Garone. Gentlemen, congratulations. Tell us, both of you, your thoughts throughout the race tonight and now that you've secured your first championship.
COLE PEARN: I don't know. Still in disbelief, I guess. I don't know, I can't believe it. Yeah, I don't know, we really tried to focus on being good once it turned nighttime, and I don't know, I was really trying there because a lot of those other guys were a little bit better during the day, and we kept pace, we weren't as good by any means, especially not on the long run, and we kept in the top 5, kept in position, and the pit crew was amazing all night, never once faltered. We just continued to adjust on it. We knew kind of when the track cooled down where we needed to be, and then, I don't know, we weren't going to beat the 18. There was no way. I knew kind of they were going to go on that one stop, so we decided to go to the two‑stop strategy to try to provide opportunity to at least do something different, and we were fortunate enough to catch a caution that we didn't even need to come down, just straight speed, and really those last 30 laps, that's Martin.
For anybody that doesn't believe that he's a champion, he's‑‑ I don't know, that was one of the best drives I've seen. We didn't have the best car by any means, and he found a spot on the track to be able to make it work and outran the best car, and the best car was Kyle Busch.
I really just hope out of this the accolades come for how unbelievable a driver he is.
THE MODERATOR: Joe, the incredible season that your organization has had has been well‑documented. This has been to be a wonderfully satisfying way to cap it off.
JOE GARONE: Oh, it absolutely is, and as Cole said, it was a bit nerve‑racking because we didn't have the best car, and they had to work on it. It really took the whole team to get us to the end there. From where I was sitting, you know, not understanding everything that's going on and putting faith in Cole and the engineers to be able to make the decisions they make based on the information that Cole is giving them is really incredible to watch. We've watched it all year. But in this particular race, it grates on you.
When that call was made to go to a two‑stop strategy, it was instantaneous. It wasn't like it was planned. They came on the radio, and it was like, okay, we've got to pit now. That's impressive, really, to be able to do that and have the confidence that they had to make that move, and then the adjustments.
And again, what Cole said about Martin at the end. Talking to Martin, we were afraid we were going to burn the tires off of it, and he told me, he said, well, we kind of did, but I was able to get it to another point for a few laps, which is incredible. He is truly incredible.
Q. Two quick questions: A, Barney obviously knows, but how was he told? Were you scared to tell him, afraid it might excite him too much? Did you text him? Did you call him?
JOE GARONE: You know he was watching.
Q. Well, but I heard he wasn't supposed to watch.
JOE GARONE: That's right, he wasn't.
Q. And the follow‑up to that, what was going through both of your minds in those final laps when your jobs are done, you can't do any more, and tell me about the tension that must have been going through the last 10 laps.
COLE PEARN: I think for me I probably had more tension with like 15 to go because the 18 was coming and I wasn't sure where we were going to find the grip to be able to beat him. Once Martin started finding a groove that was working for him and when he started to pull away at times a little bit from him, all I did was continue to watch where we were running, continue to watch where Kyle was running and try and find the lane that was‑‑ at least give the feedback to Martin on what lane was working the best. Really, I think that need to be attentive was a calming factor in a way. I still felt surprisingly calm and surprisingly at peace as we approached those last few laps, and I think really when we got down with a couple to go, just started thinking about everything we've been through and started to let it kind of soak in or pour in on you, I guess, in a way, and just was really in disbelief that we were able to do it.
JOE GARONE: I'll answer on the Barney part for sure. It's a constant stream of texting. That's one of my jobs when he's normally not here. So it's like you're linked together. I never get a response back, but I send a lot of responses out. So sometimes I don't even know if he's paying attention. So he called as we were going to Victory Lane, which is really pretty amazing. You could hear in his voice the excitement.
He told me going into it he didn't know‑‑ he's not supposed to be stressed. He said, I'm not so sure whether not watching the race is more stressful than watching it, but I'll make that decision when I get there. As of right now, I don't know what he did. But he was excited for sure. That's absolutely true.
Q. How did you feel those last laps?
JOE GARONE: So the last laps were‑‑ first of all, I had a dream the night before that it would be the two Toyotas. I felt like the 18 car was going to be the car to beat, and my outcome was a little bit different up to the point where we won because we were going to win either way, but I saw us sideways with the 18 in the side of our door going across the start‑finish line, so I'm glad that didn't happen. But I do feel like the two fastest cars for sure were racing at the end, and it's just been an incredible season with Toyota for sure, and to have the two of them there at the end was great.
Q. While dominating on the track, you guys have also faced off‑track adversity. What does winning this championship mean for you guys for ending the season on a high note in light of the adversity?
COLE PEARN: You know, it's a medicine at times, I guess. I was able to overcome kind of those last couple laps‑‑ I don't know, I've got a hard time talking about it honestly. I wish‑‑ I lost my best friend, and I still think about him every day and every night. I don't know, I'm not sure. It's pretty crazy to be able to win. You know, I just can't wait to get back home and see all my friends and family and be able to share this with them.
Q. Cole, can you just wear a tee shirt to the awards ceremony or do you have to get dressed up?
COLE PEARN: I think tuxedo with a tee shirt would be appropriate. (Laughter.) I don't ever plan on catching on fire, so I don't get why those guys wear fire suits. I just want to look cool, I guess.
Q. In all your time working with Martin, when did you know that he had the ability to do in the last 10 laps what he did today?
COLE PEARN: I don't know. I continue to believe every day that his talent level, and a lot of times we get a lot of credit as a team because maybe in his career he didn't have the success he's had since we've been together. I think that bodes for us getting a lot of the praise. I really‑‑ he's a champion. You know, I think for me, one of the most clutch wins for the year was Charlotte when we were able to win and pull that off when maybe we weren't our best, either, and I didn't know that we had another performance like that in the bag, and somehow we found it. This is by no means or strongest track by any means. We hadn't had it Kansas or at Charlotte. We'd have worn him out. But this was not an easy one for us, and really he put it on his shoulders there because we were out of ideas. We were doing everything we could, and we made the best calls we could. I can't take away from that. But at the same time, he put it on his shoulders and made it happen.
Q. Joe, this team has been running along for a couple years, but what does this do for you now going forward? Can you add more people? Is it going to attract more and better sponsors? And do you anticipate a bunch of teams moving to Denver all of a sudden?
JOE GARONE: Well, it's going to cost us a lot of money to start with. It's just‑‑
COLE PEARN: Everybody is coming to the banquet, by the way.
JOE GARONE: Exactly. It's going to cost us a lot of money, which is awesome. What a great thing, right? I mean, that's one of those questions that obviously it's great. We've validated ourselves as a team, and we'll‑‑ we continue to‑‑ obviously we have to have performance to get sponsorships, and performance is key. We've performed all year, but this was‑‑ it doesn't get any higher than this right now. I think that'll help us certainly as we move forward as we try and continue to grow the team back up.
Q. Can each of you comment on how much the addition of the second car in Erik Jones has aided your team this season?
COLE PEARN: You know, I don't know. I feel really confident in our group whether we're one car or two. I think the thing I'm most proud of is coming into the year everyone was like, oh, two teams is going to slow them down and they're going to lose that dynamic, and we never lost a beat. And I think going back to one team we're not going to lose a beat, either. We never let the product suffer and we have a high pedigree of what we're going to allow to go to the racetrack, and I think for everybody it was a lot of hours, a lot of work to start that team, and there's a lot of people‑‑ key people in our team that put efforts in that are really inhuman at times, and I don't know, I'm so happy that we were able to get this win for them.
JOE GARONE: It's hard to follow up on that because Cole covered for the most part everything. But the one thing that was on top of all that was the new Camry, the 2018 Camry that came out and switching bodies and having to go through all that, and adding a team, a group of new people. I know Barney and I had reservations about how that would go at the beginning, and while it was really hard for sure, I think it went really well overall.
Q. You guys's team was‑‑ you guys were like the masters of the stages throughout the season. You didn't win as many stages‑‑ I think you only won one stage in the entire playoffs, so I was just wondering did you feel like you needed to win more stages, or did you feel comfortable with the amount of playoff points you accumulated, and do you feel like the round of eight stage points were‑‑ was it really worth winning stages if you couldn't get points that would help you towards this race?
COLE PEARN: There's no strategy at all in that, honestly. It's just‑‑ I think early in the year, we were fortunate enough to be qualifying well and having good speed, and allowed us to win a lot of stages. I think really when the playoffs come, it's a product of everybody raising their game. There was a lot of races where maybe we weren't the best car early in races that we would have been early in the year, and I think that's kind of the difference.
We had Chicago, we had a penalty, had a loose wheel; that really took us out of being able to win stages. Loudon we were going to run away with it, I think, and got crashed on the backstretch going to win the second stage there. Charlotte we sucked early in the race and really came through at the end. I think a lot of races we've faced a lot of adversity really early in races. It's maybe something that didn't happen early in the year. So I think that's just a difference in stage wins in the playoffs versus the regular season. It wasn't really any different strategy‑wise, it was just kind of the way the races played out.
Q. For Cole, you hear a lot of crew chiefs and even drivers talk about how they're going to hesitant to take part in a test before the championship race at Homestead. You guys did; did you guys feel like you validated anything that you learned, or once you got to practice on Friday and Saturday you were kind of starting over fresh?
COLE PEARN: No, it was a huge help for us. I think we skipped the test last year just because we had been testing a lot and really didn't‑‑ it was kind of wearing on us more than being beneficial, and this year we didn't test very much luckily. The 77, the biggest, saddest reason I'm going to miss them, for doing all the tests. But we were fortunate to come down here for two days. We had time to prepare for it and came with a plan. Really for us, this has been kind of an achilles heel track, not our best by any means, and we made a lot of ground on that test. We definitely would not be sitting here in Victory Lane if we would not had been.
The first day was kind of going rough and we were contemplating how we were going to blow the racetrack up and have it somewhere else because that was the only way we were going to win, and we started to make headway the end of the first day and had a good second day and really brought it into the weekend, and I think every practice session we were‑‑ had really good speed, and the race was a little bit different animal today, but at the end of the day, it was a hugely beneficial test for us.
Q. Cole, I don't know if they were being truthful or not, but championship winning crew chiefs in the past have come in here and said they were going right back to work Monday morning, that they don't have time to celebrate. I don't know if they're telling the truth or not. What are your plans? Will you guys get to take a break and enjoy this before you have to start preparing for '18?
COLE PEARN: I am. I don't care. We just won a championship in NASCAR; are you kidding me? I don't really give a crap what we do next week. (Laughter.)
I don't know, I mean, we're going to enjoy it. I think‑‑ I'm 35 years old and I've raced every year of my life since I was six years old and I spent every year of my life before that going to watch my dad at the racetrack. Barney asked me on the way to work on Tuesday how long have I been doing this, and I had to add it up, and I never would have dreamt that this would have been possible, especially growing up where I did in Canada. That's kind of unheard of to break into a predominantly southern sport and then to do it as a team in Colorado and win a championship, definitely going to take some time for reflection on that and think about what we've accomplished before we worry about 2018.
Q. Joe, because of the success, are you worried about losing talent?
JOE GARONE: No. No, our guys are‑‑ they're tight. This is a tight group of people. They really are.
COLE PEARN: We're family. This is a family.
JOE GARONE: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. Cole, when the 2 car hit pit road there to make it a two‑stop race to finish, you guys pitted right after that. Did you have some intel that they were going to come to pit road, and how quickly did you make that decision that you guys were going to go two stops?
COLE PEARN: No, we had it contemplated at least, at least I had it in my head. We hadn't talked about it a lot, and kind of realized in a split‑second way that that was what we were going to have to do to be something different because one split stop in the run wasn't going to beat the 18 being better than us on the long run. I was kind of thinking like 201 and we ended up hitting at 199 based off what those guys did. That kind of allowed us to react and we were setting up to pit maybe 10 laps before the yellow came out, and we didn't have to.
Q. Joe, any idea if Barney will be able to attend the awards ceremony in a couple weeks?
JOE GARONE: I'm pretty sure he can't. This is going to take some recovery time. It's one of those procedures that just‑‑ you can't move. Drastically, you have to be really careful for a good eight weeks I believe is what they've told him. I joke with him because I told him, hey‑‑ he doesn't like public speaking a whole lot, and I told him, I knew you'd find a way to get out of doing this. And he joked back with me and was like, yep, you've got it.
Q. Are you going to bring the trophy to his house or any idea‑‑
JOE GARONE: We'll talk about it. No, not really, not yet. We'll figure it out. But right now for Barney right now, low stress and just easy going is going to be good here for another two weeks. We'll ease into that as we go here.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOE GARONE: Exactly. It's stress from‑‑ it's anxiety and stress from happiness, so it's all good.
COLE PEARN: I can't believe we led 90 laps tonight.
JOE GARONE: Are you reading that? I didn't even know it. It didn't feel like that.
Q. Joe, going back to 2005 with Jerry Robertson and today going to Martin Truex winning a championship, how much do you feel like the organization has built an empire seemingly in just a few years?
JOE GARONE: Well, it took a long time. Those first several years, obviously I needed better people because I was running the car as a crew chief and the books and everything else, and that's a formula for disaster. But as Barney got his feet wet and started understanding what it was he really wanted out of NASCAR and wanted to do, we were able to make some decisions that were major tipping points in the walk, and really when Cole came on board, I believe it was 2010 or so, he came with another group of guys, and that was really the beginning of us surrounding ourselves with the people we needed to be able to have the foundation to be able to do what we did today, and that continues on not just with the people in the shop but with our relationships outside of the shop with‑‑ we could not do this without Toyota and the support that they've given us and Joe Gibbs Racing. The truth is we have a great technical alliance with them, and it takes all of those components besides the great guys in the shop that we have to pull this kind of thing off.
Q. Cole, after all the strategy and the tires and the caution flag and so forth, and you have Martin out front, but you have maybe the guy that you most don't want to see coming up in his mirror, did that worry you more so than if it had been somebody else?
COLE PEARN: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I was worried for sure. I knew they were coming, and I knew how good they were on the long run all night, and he was starting to find his groove and find his speed. They're an unbelievable team, unbelievable competitors. The fact that Martin was able to find some speed and find a lane that was working for us, it was like, okay, well, we started to stretch it out. I just really tried to stay focused on what was working and just tried to stay focused on the task at hand. It was just eerily calm in a way. I think in a way I felt like we were probably‑‑ high chance they were going to get us, and I think the fact when you realized that was quite possible, it allowed you to just calm down and we've got to fight tooth and nail for everything we can. I think that brought a lot of resolve and a lot of focus to what we needed to do, and I think‑‑ I can't think of a better way to be a champion than to beat the other best team I can think of in those closing laps.
Q. Cole, when you worked for Toyota right out of college, did you ever think that you at the highest point in your career would circle back with Toyota?
COLE PEARN: No, I told Bob Carter that tonight. I said, just so you know, my first job ever was with Toyota, and I went to Toyota City in Japan and worked there for six weeks and totally got exposed to the culture at a deep, deep core level, and it brain washed me. Still to this day I use all kinds of Toyota terms all the time, and we really apply a lot of that mindset to our race team. The fact that we ended up being a Toyota team, and then to be able to do this with them is pretty incredible. A lot of guys that I still remember when I quit and said I was moving to North Carolina to go work in NASCAR, they were like, oh, what team are you going to work for, and I'm like, I don't have a job, just going to go down there and find a job. They're like, you're going to do what? Because I had a really good job there. A lot of those people are great friends and great mentors to me, and they still reach out to me all the time.
I'm really hopeful at some point we can bring that championship trophy back to Cambridge and Woodstock and Ontario and see a lot of old friends.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports