Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens

There's an old saying that "familiarity breeds contempt." Don't say that to a racecar driver or a crew chief. They have tracks they love for specific reasons and enjoy opportunities to vie for wins at those tracks. Bristol Motor Speedway is a favorite among many of them, including race winner Kevin Harvick's crew chief Rodney Childers.

"This is definitely a big win for me personally. Like he [Harvick] said, it's just one that has always meant a lot to me," Childers said. "I loved coming up here when I was younger, a place that I actually raced at, and just feel like I understand it better. I kind of feel like I know what he's going through sometimes and that type of thing."

Childers discussed what a Bristol win means to him in his current role as crew chief.

"With Kevin here, we've been really fast every time we've been here and just had things happen that didn't go our way. But I think the biggest thing is, it's just short-track racing. That's what I grew up doing. That's what I love. Just racing here before, just a little bit of everything. I think it just has always meant a lot to me. Any type of short track race, it doesn't matter if it's here or Martinsville, my car chief said that going to victory lane, he said, 'We've got one more left, that's Martinsville.' I was like, 'No, we've got a lot more left.' But Martinsville would be cool for sure."
He joined his driver in expressing his appreciation to the speedway for their contributions.
"Definitely means a lot to me ... applaud the racetrack for what they have done this week. It's really awesome to see that bottom groove back and to be able to pass those lapped cars on the bottom and that type of thing.
"Just a great job from our team all around. He [Havick] mentioned that we've kind of circled this one every time, and we've had a good car every single time we've been here and just hasn't worked out to our way, I guess you could say, at the end of it. And tonight everything just happened to come together and everybody did a great job," Childers explained.
Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

In addition to giving credit to the racetrack, Childers also applauded the work of Chevrolet, the team's manufacturer.

"Those guys do a good job, of course," he said. "They've got good drivers, they've got good cars, and they work together well. But ... it's still about not beating ourselves. We've had great cars.  We've been right there with them. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, we can get things ready for the Chase and be ready when it counts."

Childers continued his parade of thanks by offering appreciation to his pit crew.

"Since we changed things around, they have done a tremendous job. We've been able to compete with the Gibbs cars, and that's what you compare yourself to every time you come down pit road, and like Kevin said earlier, it's about not beating yourself," he said.

Despite their talents, anxiety can affect the crew's over-the-wall performance. The turning point in the race may have been a rare pep talk from Childers.

"You know, as the night was going on, and we became the dominant car and started to lead the race, that's when everybody's nerves get up, and we started having mistakes. I walked to the bathroom during that one caution after that and just thought about what's the right thing to do. Got them all together behind the pit box, which I don't normally do. Sometimes people take that the wrong way, and it makes things worse. But they all looked me in the eye, and I could tell as soon as I turned around that they were ready to do this, and we were going to win a race tonight. I got back on the pit box and told my engineer Dax that they're going to be good to go from now on, and next time we come down pit road it was great. It's all about confidence. This win will mean a lot to those guys, and believing in themselves and not getting nervous when the time comes, and that's really what's important," Childers explained.
That time is just around the corner. Only three races remain on the regular schedule before the green flag drops at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 18 for the first round of The Chase. 

     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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