Joe Gibbs Racing owned the headlines in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 as his Toyota operation dominated the sport as it put three drivers in the Championship 4 with the opportunity to run for the title in the last race of the season at Homestead Miami.

JGR’s Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. all three took the green flag on that day with the title within their grasp but it was Kyle Busch who took the checkered flag and with it the series championship.

Truex finished second to Busch both at Homestead and in the championship battle but it was just a few weeks later that his team may have made one of the biggest headlines of the year in the series when his long time crew chief Cole Pearn announced that he was stepping down to spend more time with his family.

It was a sudden ending to one of the most successful combinations in the sport and left many wondering if Truex could continue his winning ways with a new crew chief on top of his pit box.

Truex showed glimpses of the potential that he had when he posted a win at both Richard Childress Racing and Michael Waltrip early in his career before landing at Furniture Row Racing in 2014. In his first year at FRR based in Denver, Colorado he was paired with Todd Berrier as his crew chief.

The following year, Truex was united with Pearn and the two would began their steady climb to the top of the sport.

In their time together at Furniture Row, Truex and Pearn won seventeen races and took home the title in 2017. The pair was always a threat to win at any stop on the schedule but the run at FRR came to an end after the 2018 season when it could no longer attract the sponsorship dollars it needed to continue to compete at the highest level.

Furniture Row and Joe Gibbs Racing had an alliance between the two since both operations competed in Toyotas and it was no secret that the manufacturer wanted to find a ride in one of its Toyotas for the highly successful pair.

Gibbs made a change with one of his four teams that opened up a seat for the 2019 season so when it was announced that Truex was joining the organization it came to no surprise that Pearn would be announced as his crew chief.

There was no learning curve for the two once the season got underway because of their alliance with JGR, the chemistry that the team had formed over the years continued and it showed on race day. Truex’s team made seven trips to victory lane while posting fifteen top-5 and 24 top-10 finishes.

That level of success in the sport is rare now because of the amount of talent in the sport and sustaining it over a long period of time is difficult.

Gibbs just recently announced that James Small would be taking over as crew chief immediately for Truex as the team prepares for the start of the 2020 season. Small is no stranger to Truex as he has been part of his team for the last three years which spans both Furniture Row and Gibbs.

This past season he was the lead engineer for Truex’s Toyota so he should feel comfortable in his new role but will now face the pressure that Sprint Cup Series crew chiefs face on a daily basis and not just on the weekends at the track.

This will be his first full time crew chief job in the series but he does have two races under his belt from on top the pit box. He filled in as Erik Jones’ crew chief in 2017 at Furniture Row and posted a third place finish at Michigan International Speedway and a tenth place finish at Watkins Glen.

Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.