Monday, October 5, 2015

Right Sides Only: Notes from AAA 400 Winning Crew, Rodney Childers

Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 4 team led by driver Kevin Harvick, might as well have been sitting on pins and needles, as nervous as he was in the final few laps of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

"I don't even remember what was going through my mind. It seems like when you get in a situation like that where you're leading there at the end, there's just so many things that -- every lap I would turn around to 3 and 4 where I could see us out of the corner and make sure the car was there again.  There's just so many things that can go wrong. It seems like we've had a lot of them this year.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"It was just nice to have a fast car and to have things go smoothly today and just -- honestly, we've made mistakes, and that's something that you can't do as a race team to win a championship, and it was nice not to have those today," Childers explained.
Following their less-than-stellar finishes in Chicago and New Hampshire, Childers and Harvick were in a "have-to-win" situation if they wanted to qualify for the second round of the Chase.

"Well, you know, we felt like we had done a good job of preparing ourselves for the Chase. We got to Chicago, and we had a fast car, and qualifying got rained out, which put us on the pole, and felt like we had the best car in practice, and then we started the race, and really wasn't as good as what we thought we were. It seemed like the racetrack started coming back around, and we started getting better, and then that's when everything kind of broke loose.
            
"But going to Loudon, we felt like we had been really strong there the two races previous. We felt like we were taking really one of our best cars there, and really, Loudon, I thought we could go up there and we could win, and I thought that we would be fast all weekend, and it turned out that way until three laps to go," Childers said.
            
"This week was a different story. I wasn't 100 percent positive on everything. I didn't have the warm, fuzzy feeling. This was a car that hadn't been very good before. We had wrecked it at Bristol at the beginning of the year last year, and when we put a front clip on it, it didn't turn out right, and it always took different slugs than every other car, and just nothing seemed to be right with it. We ran it at Kentucky earlier this year, and it didn't run good again, and finally I was done with it. We cut the clips off, cut the body off, and said we're going to get it ready for the Chase, and that's what everybody did, and they worked really hard on it, and it turned out good in the wind tunnel and even when they turn out good in the wind tunnel if they've never run good before, you kind of wonder if you want to take them somewhere. But it did a good job for us all weekend. It had good speed and came through for us."

The win allows Harvick to continue his quest for a second championship, but Childers is the first to admit that their team may be at a disadvantage to the Joe Gibbs Racing teams, after having watched them dominate in recent weeks.

"I think we're a little bit of a disadvantage. I'm not really sure what those guys have. You know, that's their deal. But yeah, we've had to pull out stuff, cars that we really didn't want to.  
 
"So we've got a good race team. We've been through situations like this before. We've got good cars sitting at the shop. The car we raced at Loudon last week is already back on the floor ready to go. If we wanted to race it, we could. We've got a car going to the wind tunnel tomorrow morning that should be good, and then we've got our Charlotte car that we're planning on racing sitting there.  We've got a good race team, and we've got good cars sitting there, but definitely have had to show more the past two weeks than what we really wanted to," Childers admitted.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

As they did last year in Phoenix, Childers and Harvick won when it truly counted.

"Well, in all honesty, winning fixes everything. You know, if we would have lost today, it would have been a downhill spiral, I believe, and probably struggled the next few weeks. It is all about people.  It's all about attitude. It's all about confidence. Our group is good at that. They never waver. They do a great job each and every day. They come into the shop with a smile on their face, and they just make it happen.
            
"And I said this a lot last year: I got lucky. I've never been a guy that was good at looking over résumés and interviewing people and figuring out who the best guy was. I go off of my gut instinct, and I don't know how I did it, but I got lucky. These guys have shown it over and over again that they can make stuff happen, and they do a great job at it," Childers said.

As the No. 4 team continues its search for another Sprint Cup championship, the entire team will need to continue to "make stuff happen" because it won't get any easier from here.
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   Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

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