By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Just 10 days removed from championship-winning crew chief Cole Pearn exiting both Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR, the team announced Thursday that Australian James Small will be calling the shots for Martin Truex, Jr.’s No. 19 team.
The 36-year-old has been Truex’s lead engineer the past two seasons at both JGR and the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing. Their collaboration proved to be a massive success this past season as Truex won seven races and finished runner-up in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Small said it’s an incredible opportunity of calling the shots in the sport’s top level as he was previously an interim crew chief for Erik Jones in 2017. While that role lasted two races, the results were stout as Jones finished 10th at Watkins Glen and third at Michigan.
“Having the confidence of Coach, Martin and everyone at JGR means a lot to me,” Small said. “I moved to the United States six years ago to work in NASCAR and I wanted to work my way up to become a crew chief. I’m ready for this and I am excited about working with Martin and the foundation we have in place on the 19 team with the group of guys we have.”
The lethal combination of Truex and Pearn consisted of 24 wins and the 2017 title in five seasons and while that’s over, Truex said Small shares tremendous similarities of Pearn in him that would transition into more wins and championships.
“I know James well and feel very comfortable with him,” Truex said. “I feel like we approach racing very similar. He and Cole have a lot of similarities. It’s a natural fit and I’m really excited about it. I think he’ll do a great job.”
With Small promoted to crew chief, Jeff Curtis will now be the lead engineer. Curtis is another member who’s worked with Truex over the years, including the 2017 championship campaign at FRR.
Car chief Blake Harris will continue to be around at JGR in some capacity as well.
Over the years, Small was the lead engineer for Jones in 2017, worked at Richard Childress Racing in an engineering role from 2014-16.
Before moving to America, Small spent eight years working in Supercars, where he was the race-winning engineer in the 2013 Bathurst 1000, won by Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards.