Maybe Cole Pearn’s decision to leave Joe Gibbs Racing and step away from the NASCAR world shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In reality, the championship-winning crew chief was just the latest in a recent rash of NASCAR participants to choose family over career.
"I don’t want to miss that time anymore," Pearn said in the statement released by JGR. "I want to be there for all the things that my kids are going to experience while they are still young. I love racing and there isn’t a better place to be than Joe Gibbs Racing, but I don’t want to look back in 20 years and think about everything I missed with my wife and kids while I was gone. They are what is most important to me."
See Also: Pearn to Step Away from NASCAR
Pearn also communicated his desire to return to his western Canada home and away from the NASCAR hub in and around the Charlotte area, where he’s made no bones about not completely being a fit for either him or his family.
But while the words were slightly different, the sentiment delivered by Pearn was similar in nature to what was shared by Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, David Ragan and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. when they left the sport – family time is more important than even a successful and lucrative career in NASCAR.
NASCAR has by far the longest professional or collegiate season in sports. From the Clash in Daytona to the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami, the 2019 Cup calendar ran 283 days. That’s nearly a month longer than the next professional sports season the NHL.
The length of the season is certainly nothing new and as Pearn pointed out nobody is forced to work in the sport. Everyone knows what he or she sign up for when embarking on a career in the NASCAR.
However, like the rest of the world things change. The exchange of career for missing precious family time is not equitable for as many people today.
Certainly starting a career earlier and earning more money is another component to the equation. Drivers in particular no longer have to race for 25 or 30 years just to put food on the table as those who competed in NASCAR’s earlier days did.
But it is also fair to assess whether the grueling schedule is accelerating the departure of key personnel as well. The times have changed that perception for some as well and all sports are examining calendars and scheduling in order to create the best environment.
While it’s not logical to think a reduction in Cup races will happen in 2021 given the revenue structure and lucrative nature of those events, it is possible to envision a compressed season. Next summer’s Pocono doubleheader will be an important litmus test to see if running a pair of Cup races on one weekend is successful.
If so, a schedule that includes two such doubleheader weekends and the introduction of a pair of midweek races – an idea that continues to be examined – would automatically shave about a month off the calendar. A season that runs from mid-February to early October seems much more manageable.
Leaving fans wanting more – something the NFL and college football does continually – might also be a way to drive up bigger demand for races when the new year rolls around.
If a by-product of the idea is extending the shelf life of drivers and crew chiefs that would be another benefit for the sport.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.