INDIANAPOLIS – Cole Pearn has discovered there are some major differences between working in NASCAR compared to the Indianapolis 500.
When Pearn was the crew chief for NASCAR Cup star Martin Truex, Jr. with both Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex’s main competitors were often his teammates. If Pearn developed a speed secret, maybe he didn’t share all of the information with rival drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch or Erik Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Why give your fiercest foes the roadmap to victory?
This year at the 104th Indianapolis 500, Pearn is the race engineer for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing. In the NTT IndyCar Series, race engineers freely share information with the other drivers on their team.
There is also the culture shock of racewear. Pearn is a T-shirt guy, but in IndyCar, if the crew isn’t in a crew shirt, engineers sometimes wear short-sleeved golf shirts.
When he joined Ed Carpenter Racing, the team gave him four new T-shirts. Pearn was spotted wearing a golf shirt last weekend because he hasn’t had a chance to do laundry since arriving in Indianapolis.
However, it’s the race car that Pearn is most interested in. That car is the No. 47 United States Air Force Chevrolet driven by Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing.
Daly will start Sunday’s 104th Indy 500 18th on the grid, the outside of row six.
The Canadian engineer has always been intrigued by race cars. He won a NASCAR Cup championship with Truex and is hoping to win an Indianapolis 500 with Daly.
“The Indy 500 is a huge deal, so this is definitely a bucket list item for sure,” Pearn said. “To get a chance to do it with a great driver and a great team as well, a team I kind of felt comfortable with, was a perfect opportunity.
“I definitely didn’t want to go back racing full-time, so to get a chance to do one race, have it be in a competitive situation, is pretty ideal.”
Pearn walked away from one of the best jobs in NASCAR last year as Truex’s crew chief. The long grind of a full NASCAR Cup schedule took its tole on Pearn, who has other interests that he wants to pursue.
Working on an Indy car allows Pearn to still focus on engineering and doing what he does best. He admits while the physics of setting up a fast race car remain the same, the difference between a stock car and an Indy car forces him to look at that formulation differently.
“When everything is kind of first nature, it comes quicker, you’re able to make decisions better and quicker,” Pearn said. “I think getting more and more comfortable with everything.
“It’s getting more familiar with it all. I think fortunately enough the Indy 500 schedule is long enough that will hopefully help in that.
“A lot of things are super similar,” Pearn continued. “The values that you’re looking at are way different, way more downforce, a lot lighter car, all those things. You are still looking for the same things in terms of handling and all those types of metrics you kind of study are the same. It’s just the values are slightly different.”
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