Cole Pearn hired by ECR as lead engineer for Conor Daly at Indy 500

IndyCar Cole Pearn
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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Former NASCAR championship crew chief Cole Pearn will be bringing his mechanical wisdom to the NTT IndyCar Series, joining Ed Carpenter Racing as the lead engineer on its Indianapolis 500 entry for Conor Daly in the Aug. 23 race.

Pearn abruptly left NASCAR’s premier series a few weeks after leading Martin Truex Jr. to his fourth Cup championship round appearance in five years, returning to his native Canada to operate a ski lodge in British Columbia.

At ECR, he will be reunited with Pete Craik, the lead engineer on Carpenter’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet who worked with Pearn during Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 championship season with Truex. When Furniture Row Racing shut down and much of the team migrated to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area last year to stay with Pearn and Truex at Joe Gibbs Racing, Craik stayed in Denver and joined ECR.

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“I am super excited to get a chance to compete in the Indy 500 with Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter Racing,” Cole Pearn said in a release from the IndyCar team. “I wasn’t sure when I would want to get back to racing, but this is a great opportunity to do so. To be able to do it at a high level was too hard to pass up. Obviously, it will be a steep learning curve but getting to work with [No. 20 engineer] Pete Craik again and the rest of the ECR team is about the best situation I could hope for!”

Daly is running a full IndyCar schedule between ECR and Carlin. The Indy 500 will be his lone oval race with Ed Carpenter Racing in the No. 47 Dallara-Chevy.

“I am really excited to get to work with Cole for the first time at the Indy 500,” Daly said in a release. “We’re both going to have to get up to speed with this ECR operation, but I can’t wait,” commented Daly. “Cole has had an incredible amount of success in the NASCAR world and now we’ll be going for our first Indy 500 win together!”

An ECR spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that Pearn currently will be with the team only for the Indy race.

Here’s the release from Ed Carpenter Racing:

(INDIANAPOLIS) July 29, 2020 – Ed Carpenter Racing has welcomed championship-winning crew chief Cole Pearn to its engineering staff for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Pearn will return to racing for the Month of August, serving as lead engineer for Conor Daly. Daly will compete in ECR’s third entry, the No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet. The Indianapolis 500 has been rescheduled from its traditional Memorial Day weekend date to August 23, 2020.

After earning a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Waterloo, Pearn moved to North Carolina to pursue a career in NASCAR.  He became an engineer with Richard Childress Racing before shifting to Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. In 2015, he was promoted to crew chief of the team’s No. 78 with driver Martin Truex. The pair won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship, competed in the title race in four of five years, and won a series-high seven races last year. Pearn stepped away from full-time NASCAR competition at the close of the 2019 season, returning to his home country of Canada with his wife Carrie and their two young children. The couple now own and operate Golden Alpine Holidays, which includes four backcountry lodges in British Columbia. Pearn has remained involved in the sport, serving as an analyst for NASCAR.com.

“I am super excited to get a chance to compete in the Indy 500 with Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter Racing. I wasn’t sure when I would want to get back to racing, but this is a great opportunity to do so. To be able to do it at a high level was too hard to pass up,” remarked Pearn. “Obviously, it will be a steep learning curve but getting to work with [No. 20 engineer] Pete Craik again and the rest of the ECR team is about the best situation I could hope for!”

Daly will be returning to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval after his most successful Month of May to date. In 2019, he set the fastest lap of all practice sessions, nearly made the Fast Nine Shootout for the pole position and earned a career-best finish of 10th. After serving as one of the most trusted reserve drivers in the paddock the past two seasons, Daly is back to full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in 2020. Daly drives ECR’s No. 20 for the road and street course events, No. 47 in the Indianapolis 500 and races in the remaining oval events with Carlin. This year’s Indianapolis 500 will mark the seventh time the Noblesville, Ind.-native has competed in his home race and his third year of representing the U.S. Air Force. Daly’s special edition No. 47 entry pays homage to the founding year of the U.S. Air Force and one of its most iconic aircraft, the Bell X-1.

While the 2020 Indianapolis 500 will be Pearn’s first as an engineer, it will also be Daly’s first with Ed Carpenter Racing. “I am really excited to get to work with Cole for the first time at the Indy 500! We’re both going to have to get up to speed with this ECR operation, but I can’t wait,” commented Daly. “Cole has had an incredible amount of success in the NASCAR world and now we’ll be going for our first Indy 500 win together!”

ECR has two full-time entries in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and has expanded to three cars for the Indianapolis 500. Daly’s teammates will be team owner and fellow Hoosier Ed Carpenter and Dutch rookie Rinus VeeKay. Pete Craik, lead engineer on Carpenter’s No. 20, worked with Pearn at Furniture Row Racing and was also a part of the 2017 championship run. ECR’s chief engineer Matt Barnes oversees the department and will head up the No. 21 of VeeKay. An ECR Chevrolet has qualified on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 six of the past seven years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018).

Tim Broyles, General Manager of ECR, is pleased with the addition to the team’s engineering staff. “We prepare all year to be the best we can be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and bringing on someone of Cole Pearn’s caliber for August only adds to that,” stated Broyles. “We are proud of the engineering program that we have built and Cole is a solid addition to that group.”

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”