Earl Pearson Jr on Ronnie Stuckey: “A lot of people don’t know what he does behind the scenes.”
The crew made five pit stop during the Dirt Million following a crash; Drove through the field to win $203k
Adjusting your way to a win isn’t uncommon in racing. Sunday’s racing features several hundred mile shows with a complete list of specialty crew members on the roster. That presents opportunity to change the handling of your car multiple times throughout the race.
Dirt racing is different. Typically, the races are only 50 laps. A trip to the pit area isn’t usually for adjustments. Instead, the pit area is for emergency repairs.
Earl Pearson Jr flipped that script during the 100-lap main event at Mansfield Motor Speedway. Early in the race, Black Diamond Racing adjusted the car multiple times. Pearson found was he was looking for on the balance and drove to the front of the field. He passed Bobby Pierce with just a handful of laps to go and collected the $203k victory.
“Everything just fell into our hands, I guess you call it,” Earl Pearson Jr told RacingNews.co after the win. “We started the race and we was coming up through the field pretty good. I was taking my time, staying out of trouble. Then, I got in that wreck with Davenport.”
Trouble came to you.
“Yeah. But, the biggest thing is when we got in the wreck, it didn’t tear our car up. I hit him pretty hard, bumper to bumper. I just didn’t tear up anything.”
“We come in the pits there, worked on it a little bit. We went back out and the car wasn’t quite as good. We just kept coming in, coming in and coming in. We had to change both rear tires. Stuckey and the guys, they just kept working on it.”
Earl Pearson Jr came into the pits five times during the Dirt Million.
“We had a lot of help along the way. A couple guys spun out. A couple flats. Jimmy blows up with 11 to go. Babb has a flat tire on the caution. That put me in the position where I needed to be.”
“Once all that happened I started on the outside of Weiss. I knew if I could get in front of him on that start I had a chance at it.”
“We got up to Bobby and started racing him. I did my slide job. He did a slide job on me. But, once I got clear of him I knew I had to go to the top and run that cushion. I knew he was going to run that cushion and he’s good at it.”
He was knocking it down.
“Oh yeah. He was just hard at it.”
“And I knew he wasn’t going to go to the bottom. So, if I could just stay up there and kinda block him a little bit that was my only chance. I don’t think I could have gone around the bottom and out run him.”
“I just got up there and let her all hang out.”
Ronnie Stuckey told me that he was making changes based on what he saw from you on the race track. So, there’s no communication from you to make those changes. But, are you told what they changed before you’re sent back out?
“If we have enough caution laps, I can tell him what I’m feeling. Then, they’ll go change it. But, when somebody else has a flat tire then you only have two laps to work on something.”
“A lot of times, he does it by visual. What he sees on the race car. What he thinks is going wrong. There a couple times, like when the flagman got hit pretty hard… I came in, shut the motor off and just told him. I said, ‘Look, this is what’s happening. The right front’s too soft. We need to do this. We need to do that.’ ”
“He just went to work. I don’t even know all of what he changed. I had no clue. Still, right now, I don’t have a clue of what all he changed. But, it just worked out.”
“He made all the right changes. A lot of people don’t know what he does behind the scenes. That guy sits there on that spring masher and that computer … He just works at it, all day long.”
It’s hard to catch Stuckey ahead of the races. 90% of the time, his eyes are glued to the shock dyno inside the hauler. Just about every time I come by the trailer in the hours leading up to the race, he’s working on that machine.
“But, he’s been around racing all his life. He understands. He can look at a car and see if it’s too tight or too loose. He can make some good calls on that.”
When you head into turn 1 after making changes does it change drastically? Are you sometimes surprised by the changes?
“One time we came in, he done some stuff. But, the right front was too soft. It was in the race track too much. It was starting to hit the race track and bounce.”
“I come in and I told him, ‘The right front’s too low. We’re in the race track.’ So, he runs around there and does whatever.”
The flagman was hit but a clod of dirt on lap 51 of 100. That brought out the red flag. Pearson was parked in the pit lane.
“Then, the next time when that flagman got hurt I told him, ‘That’s better. But, let’s keep going. Go a little bit more in the right front.’ ”
“Then we changed some stuff in the right rear. To win the race, I think all that helped us. We had a little bit of time to work on the car.”
“At one point, after me and Davenport had our thing. We wasn’t that good and we were at the back. If we would have never gotten to come in … I don’t know if we could have ever won the race without the changes.”
I don’t know if I can recall a time that a dirt racing team adjusted their way to a win in this series. Though, there’s usually not as many laps either.
“Exactly. When you get those 100 lap races and situations like this where you get some flat tires, motor breaking and stuff like that. It gives you a little bit of time to think about what you’re doing.”
“I don’t know how long the race took. But, you got somebody like Ronnie sittin’ there watchin’ the car every lap. If you get time to come into the pits, you can change things.”
“He probably already had it in his head what he wanted to do. It’s just the first time [we] went the wrong way. We got it going pretty good after that.”
One more thing. You have a big paycheck coming. Do you have thing that you’re looking to buy? Is it going to the bank? Is it paying off debt?
“What I’ve told a lot of people, it’s not really about all the money. Don’t get me wrong, it helps. It pays a lot of bills and it pays a lot of bills for these guys and Ronnie.”
“But, the biggest thing is to win it for Ronnie, the crew guys and the sponsors. People don’t really realize how many racing people have helped this whole team out. To put us out here since late last year when we put the team together.”
“To win a race with this kind of prestige. It’s more for them guys.”
Related: Dirt Million Race Results