THE MODERATOR: Cole, thanks for joining us this morning. Your team has had an impressive season here in 2017. Talk a little bit about your team's accomplishments thus far and the opportunity this weekend to cap it off with the organization's first-ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, we've had a tremendous year for sure. We kind of came in trying to do our best every week, and I think our season really shows the result of that effort. You know, ultimately the goal is to try and win as many races as you can, run as well as you can, and then hopefully have a good shot to make it to Homestead and have a chance to race for the championship. You know, that's why we're here, so we're really confident in our program at this time, and just excited to get down there and go to work.
Q. A lot of folks have made you guys the favorite for obvious reasons. Are you comfortable in that role? Do you feel good going in knowing that a lot of people expect you guys to win?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I think we're pretty comfortable with that. I think that's a better position than the alternative for sure. I think you get that kind of title from the results of your efforts all year, so I think for us we've been near the front most of the year and kind of been in that role a lot of the season, so I think this weekend is no different, just ready to embrace it and just go do our deal.
Q. This race obviously to come down to a late-race restart, and you're up against three guys who are, I think it's safe to say, pretty aggressive in that kind of situation. Can you plan for that at all, or do you just kind of have to leave that in Martin's hands, to do the best he can do?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, we plan for that stuff every week. I think you look at the history of this race, and it's definitely come down to a last restart a lot of times. So many races throughout the year do, as well. So I think from our standpoint, you put a lot of focus on that, being able to take off and go on those restarts, and I think Martin has had a lot of good ones this year, as well. We feel pretty confident if it comes down to that we'll be in good shape.
Q. I wondered if you could kind of address what the feeling is like on the team for you guys having gone through so many difficult things this season in addition to faring so well? I think invincibility might be too strong a word, but the fact that you have overcome and done so well, does it put you maybe on a different path?
COLE PEARN: Maybe so. You know, I wish a lot of times we haven't had to go through the things we've had to go through, obviously, but I think they just made us all a lot closer and pulled our team together even that much tighter. I think for us, when you're grieving and having to go through some of the things we've gone through, it just leads you to kind of pounding into your work a little bit harder and kind of using that to take your mind off the other things.
I think that creates a little bit of resolve and a little bit more focus for us, and just really want us to push to continue to close this thing out. I think when it's all said and done, we'll be able to look back and reflect on this kind of crazy year that it's been, and hopefully we're doing it with a lot of bright spots, as well.
Q. You guys last year obviously were running for the championship and you fell out before you got to Homestead, and you've made obvious improvements this year. What's been the catalyst do you think for your team to turn into the contenders and be so strong that you have been this year?
COLE PEARN: I think it's just the culmination of trying to continue to get better. Last year was a big step forward for our team in terms of performance, and we came into the Chase at that point with a lot of confidence and were able to start off really good, and then we kind of had a weak round and ended up losing a motor at Talladega that took us out. But I think we looked at how can we prepare ourselves for that to not happen, and fortunate enough with stage points and bonus points this year and then having a regular season championship to chase after, we really targeted those things to try and build that cushion, so to speak, that if we were forced with something like we had last year that it wouldn't take us out. Ironically enough, we haven't had to use really any of those points yet to this point just because we've had such a strong playoff to this point.
Q. Obviously, people look at the drivers and look at that as the head-to-head competition on the track, but obviously there's the battle with you and the other crew chiefs in this Final Four, and you've obviously competed against many of these guys for the championship a couple years ago. Of the three crew chiefs you're going against, who challenges you the most on the pit box during a race?
COLE PEARN: I don't know, I think ultimately all of them. They're three of the best for sure, so I think probably myself and Adam kind of working together a little bit, he keeps me on my toes, and he does a tremendous job. Him and I kind of started crew chiefing the same point, so I think that's kind of unique relationship. I rely on him a lot. He's kind of a good sanity check for me at times.
Rodney has been at the top of the sport for a while now and has always been very courteous and always there if you ever need him and always wishing congratulations when you do well and stuff like that.
Same thing with Paul. Paul is a tremendous crew chief. He's always the one trying to pull some random strategy or something like that to make you think at times, but I think all three of them are really, really strong, and obviously that's why their teams are here.
Q. Do you take anything from 2015 or that championship experience, or is that just something to forget because that's a different time and today is today?
COLE PEARN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that was a huge learning experience for us. I think at that point we were just thrilled to have made it, and I think we didn't really know what to do. It was like a dog chasing the car, we finally caught the car and we didn't know what to do with it. This past year and the year before we really tried to take more time and get ourselves prepared for Homestead itself. So I think obviously we won't see that until this weekend, but it's been in our mind for a long time, and really trying to get ourselves prepared for this race and probably have put more emphasis on it than we would have if we hadn't have gone through what we did in 2015. So I think for us that was a great learning experience and I think one that's made us a lot more prepared this year.
Q. You are the only crew chief among the four finalist crew chiefs who wasn't suspended this year, so congratulations, and I'm curious if you consider that an accomplishment considering I want to say your car has been to R&D at least 10 times this year.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I consider that an accomplishment for sure. I mean, we've done a good job of managing all that and just working -- doing our best within the rules and working with NASCAR when they ask you to change something, we're quick to change it and make sure we're in compliance. I think definitely something to be proud of for sure. I think this is my first year as a crew chief not even getting on probation, so that's an accomplishment, I think.
Q. With you guys having spent so much of the season with the wins racking up stage points, bonus points, playoff points, is it disconcerting at all coming down to the end where it's just you against those other three, and do you think it'll affect how the driver drives or the crew chief manages it in that situation?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I don't know. I think obviously all those wins and playoff points and stuff -- really winning those races is what you do it for, but the bonus points side of it was just being able to make it. We kind of knew the format, we knew the deal, and we knew when we -- if we were fortunate enough to make it that we'd be up against three guys straight up. I think this race is definitely different than any race to this point this year, but from that standpoint, it's just a matter of going out and doing the best we can.
I think having the confidence to know that we can come back from issues early in the race like we've had in this playoff and rebounded and been able to close out wins I think gives you a lot of confidence for sure. So I think definitely being -- different being straight up, but at the same time I think we're ready to just go and make the most of it and hopefully just go out and just take it.
Q. I was just wondering from your standpoint, this race always seems to have some sort of an unpredictable element, so I'm just curious, is this something where you can really look at trends, where you're going back and looking at the last five or ten races at Homestead, or does every time you come to this, do you really feel like there's only so much you can predict or plan for?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I think this year is a little bit different being that it's the first year with stages, so I think that's definitely going to be a different element. But at the same time, this race has a history of coming down to those last 50 laps as so many of them do, and hopefully you've stayed yourself in good position to be in the right spot when maybe that late-race yellow comes, or if it doesn't, you've kind of seen it on all ends of the spectrum. From our standpoint, it's just -- you really look at a lot of last races there just for kind of seeing where the groove moved around and trying to understand what lines were the best at certain points in the race because the track just changes so much. So I think those are the things you try and pick out the most.
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