Cole Pearn, the former NASCAR Cup championship-winning crew chief with Martin Truex Jr., says his deal with Ed Carpenter Racing for the Indianapolis 500 is not a sign that he wants to get back into racing full-time.
The Canadian was one of the keys to Truex’s 23 wins over six seasons with Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, the zenith of which was title glory in 2017 with FRR. Then, last winter, Pearn quit racing to go into business with his wife.
But in July he was announced as Ed Carpenter Racing’s race engineer for its one-off third entry, driven by Conor Daly in the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.
However, Pearn says he’s not thinking of reversing his December decision and returning to motorsport on a full-time basis.
“I don’t think so at this point,” he said. “Definitely just focused on this race… I don’t know if a full-time schedule is back in my future any time soon.
He later commented: “It’s nice to be able to follow the race, close your computer, turn the TV off, go do something else. You don’t have to go through the cleanup and go home afterwards!”
However, he did add: “Never say never to anything. Got to have a job and be able to pay for things and stuff like that. Who knows?
“This experience I’m really looking forward to. I think it’s fun to be able to go and try something different. I don’t know what my view of it will be once it’s over. Anxious for the new experience.”
Pearn played down the differences between engineering a stock car and engineering an open-wheel car.
“Honestly, a lot of things are super similar,” he said. “Obviously the values that you’re looking at are way different, way more downforce, a lot lighter car, all those things. [But] you’re still looking for the same things in terms of handling, and all those types of metrics you study are the same. It’s just the values are slightly different…
“I think obviously it will be a fully different experience, but racing is still racing. Throw a green and checkered. So looking forward to getting to that side of it and getting into the action.”
Whereas rookie drivers have had nothing to ‘unlearn’ regarding the aeroscreen’s changes to weight distribution and tire wear, Pearn as a rookie IndyCar race engineer says that he’ll be relying on Ed Carpenter Racing’s full-time engineers to provide information comparing and contrasting car behavior before and after the screen.
“I think with reviewing past notes, you’re always relying on last year’s data to kind of do your prep work,” he observed. “For me, it’s still having to learn what the differences are and understand that.
“When you’re looking at stuff from last year, trying to correlate that to this year, you’ve got to have that. Obviously, the aero changes, the weight distribution changes.
“Yeah, I feel like kind of in the same boat with the other guys as far as what they’re having to adapt to.”
Although there will be only three days of practice at Indy before qualifying this year, Pearn believes that the postponement of the Mid-Ohio races scheduled for this weekend has at least allowed teams to fully focus on the 500.
“I was kind of hoping to go to Mid-Ohio this weekend and at least get to hang out with Conor and the team, stuff like that, view it from that standpoint. That didn’t happen.
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