Monday, March 14, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from Good Sam 500 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

Rodney Childers is no stranger to calling the winning shots at Phoenix International Raceway. In the team's previous wins, Childers has had to determine whether or not to call the No. 4 team to pit road during a late-race caution. He's previously chosen to leave Kevin Harvick on the track to maintain good track position. It's worked before, and it worked again during the Good Sam 500.

"Every race we've won here as the 4 team, that caution has come out late and we've ended up staying out and been able to be okay," Childers said. 
"Our last adjustments on our last stop just ended up getting it going the way it needed to go, and finally hit it right. I knew that he had kind of been riding and saving his stuff, and thought we'd be okay, but every time there's always seven or eight that stay out in that situation, and when there was only three, that turned into a little bit of a panic mode for me.
"You know, I thought we would be okay, and then after that first lap, I'm like, 'This is going to be close.' Just thankful of the job that Kevin does. It's really a pleasure for us to come here and to work with him. There's a lot of hard-working people back at Stewart-Haas that put everything into this race. It's one of those deals where you have to focus on the places that you're good at, and we put everything that we had into it to try to come out here and win the race," Childers explained.

Rodney Childers at Phoenix International Raceway, March 13, 2016.
Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs 
As often as Childers makes that particular call, does he ever consider whether it's a good call or does he just automatically make it?

"Honestly you think about it every lap. As you're running along there, you -- probably every two laps you look up, you see how many laps are on the tires, you look at how you're running compared to your competitors.
"So about every two to three laps in your head, you say, 'What if the caution come out now, what if the caution come out now,' and I used to always look over at my engineers and ask that question, and we would all kind of say, 'Well, I think we should do this.'
"Honestly, about, I don't know, four years ago, I finally figured out that was the wrong thing to do.  You've got to go with your gut. You don't ask anybody anything, you've got to do what you think is right. It's my butt if it's wrong, and I want to be responsible.
"It was way too close today. That shouldn't have happened. But all in all, we ended up winning the race, which is good.
"You know, it just happened to work out. It wasn't the right thing to do," Childers said. 

The day was filled with tire issues for various teams. Was Childers at all concerned about tires on the final run?

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"We didn't have any issues. In all honesty that's been going on here for the last few years," he said. "I can remember all the way back maybe two, three years ago when Earnhardt Jr. had a right rear bead melt, so every time we come here we just try to keep a bunch of air blowing on that right rear as much as we can to take care of it, but we took one set of tires off and I think the wheel was about 315 degrees when we took it off. Part of it's the learning curve, I think. It's nobody's fault. It's not Goodyear's fault for sure. They brought a good tire. It's just the teams have got to learn more about that stuff and using more brake and all that. You've just got to be smart and take care of your stuff," Childers explained.

The win was the closest margin in track history with Harvick edging Carl Edwards by a mere .010 second. Childers will be the first to admit that he was more than a little nervous on the final lap.

" ... Pretty much from the dogleg all the way back to the start-finish line, I don't think I was breathing at all. I don't think my heart was beating, either," he admitted.
"You know, they crossed the line, and I felt like we won, and then I looked up at the monitor and it said we won, but then they were waiting to look at the camera, and I'm like, you just hold your breath and hope it's the best."

With a win under their belts and having become Chase-eligible early in the season, how is the team feeling about heading to the final stop of the West Coast Swing at Auto Club Speedway next week?

"I feel pretty good about it. I don't feel like it's probably the best car we have, but it's the car we won at Dover with in the fall, and we ran third at Texas with a driver with one hand for 150 laps," he said.

"I think we have to work on our setups better. I don't feel like our platform was near controlled good enough at Vegas. It seemed to me that the 48 had it figured out better than anybody at that particular racetrack, and we've just got to figure some things out this week and hopefully have a good car next weekend."

If any team can "figure some things out," it's a pretty much given that the No. 4 team will be among those that will be successful.


   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.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves 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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