Crew chief James Small and Martin Truex Jr. look on before the running of the 2022 Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway
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Martin Truex Jr.'s Heated Exchange With His Crew Chief at Richmond Is a Troubling Sign for the Duo

It's been three years since Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. parted ways, but after watching last week's race at Richmond Raceway, it's clear that 42-year-old driver for Joe Gibbs Racing is missing his former crew chief more than ever. During his rookie season with Truex at Furniture Row Racing in 2015, Pearn helped lead the driver to his first Championship Four appearance. Two years later, they were celebrating a Cup Series championship together. Then came back-to-back Championship Four appearances, the first during their final year with Furniture Row and the second during their first season with JGR. That's what made Pearn's announcement that he would be leaving the team in 2020 to pursue a career outside of NASCAR all the more shocking (today, Cole lives in British Columbia and runs the Golden Alpine Holidays lodging chain with his wife Carrie).

Enter Melbourne, Australia native James Small, who before his crew chief promotion, was the lead engineer on Truex's No. 19 Toyota Camry. So, the two had a solid professional relationship. In fact, they had worked together back when Truex was at FRR. But, being a crew chief is obviously much different than being lead engineer, and Small and Truex have never really clicked in that capacity. Simply put, things haven't been the same for Truex since Pearn jumped ship. And, as we saw after the Toyota Owners 400 on April 2, Truex's nostalgia for the old days has manifested into major frustration with his current chief.

Despite leading for 56 laps at Richmond, Truex saw his chance at grabbing his first points victory since September 2021 slip away due to an abysmal pit stop late in the race. Tyler Reddick had spun out on lap 372, which brought out a caution flag and the race's final pit stops. Truex should've gotten fresh tires, but he ultimately got a scuffed set that had been used for only six laps earlier in the race. As a result of running on scuffed tires, Truex moved further and further down the leaderboard. He ultimately finished 11th.

Needless to say, Truex was pretty upset over the late-race mishap, and this led to a tense radio exchange between Truex and Small after the race.

"Sorry, we f***ing hosed ourselves," Small said to Truex after the driver vented over the scanner. "We were f***ing out of tires. We had seven lap scuffs, so we were f***ed."

"Don't know what you just said, but that was pitiful," Truex replied.

"We had f***ing scuffed tires on there because we hosed ourselves taking a set in Stage 1, so we were f***ed regardless," Small said. "Sorry, we f***ed up."

"You didn't tell me you put scuffs on, so I didn't know what the f*** was wrong, okay," Truex hit back. "Jesus." To which Small responded, "There was no point in telling you, we were f***ed either way."

Now, these sort of exchanges happen all the time, but as Kyle Petty recently said during a breakdown of the incident, this probably isn't a good sign for Truex and Small. You can catch the full clip here, but Petty saying that this is probably "the beginning of the end" for the veteran driver and his crew chief tells you pretty much all you need to know.

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