Monday, June 26, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens

Crew chiefs are often the picture of calm, cool and collected as they call the shots from the pit box and speak to their drivers in measured tones while giving specific instructions. It's rare to note even a hint of nervousness from any of them. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Just ask Rodney Childers.

"Well, you're always nervous, but the biggest thing is just tires and knowing what we had," Childers said.

Fuel mileage strategy is always important at Sonoma Raceway. Childers knew, however, as the long laps of the season's first of two road course races began to wind down that Kevin Harvick had enough fuel to go the distance. He was more concerned about tires.

"We had one set of stickers laying there and a lot of guys had two laying there. If you would have got a couple cautions there in that last stage, we would have been in trouble. Kevin did a great job. We got our track position there and did a great job saving fuel and everything just happened to work out.  These races out here, sometimes it takes a lot of luck to be in the right spot at the right time, but we had a good car all weekend and was fast, and everybody did everything right," Childers explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Though Harvick has performed well in multiple stages throughout the first half of the regular season, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 is his first race win of 2017. Has preparing for stage racing affected the way Stewart-Haas Racing has prepared for road course racing?

"I would say the most impressive thing about all of this, and I was thinking about this a few minutes ago, is we got ready to build road course cars. We built chassis over the winter and it wasn't the crew chiefs that all of a sudden decided, 'Hey, we've really got to get on this road course thing, we think that we can win out there.' It was the other people at the shop, the aero group and all the other guys that started pushing this thing forward, and it almost took a few weeks to realize, man, these guys are on it. They want to go out there and they want to run good.
           
"So it really comes down to how much hard work went into it at the shop. Those guys worked and worked and worked to build the best cars that we could bring out here, and I think it showed all weekend.
           
"As far as the stage racing part, man, it's tough. You look at it every which way you can look at it, every night this week it's been trying to figure out what's the right thing to do, how many tires do we have laying in the pits, when should we pit, when should we not, do we go after the playoff points in the first stage or do we not, or do we pit early. It's hard, and like I said, sometimes it's luck, too.
           
"But when you have a fast car, it fixes a lot of problems, and that really comes down to everybody at the shop," Childers explained.

Fans have seen what happens when everybody at the Stewart-Haas shop does their jobs well. They produce champions... champions like Kevin Harvick.

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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.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.

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