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

IndyCar Cole Pearn
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBC: Details for the Aug. 23 race

“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.”

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).