Monday, May 21, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens

Stewart-Haas Racing is having the kind of year that other teams only dream about. Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 4 team, is the crew chief that those other teams wish they had. Even though it wasn't a points race, Childers led Kevin Harvick to yet another win this season on Saturday night. 

If you were to ask Childers who's responsible for the results the team is reaping, he'll tell you: everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing.

"I think it comes from just everybody involved. It doesn't matter who it is, it's Kevin, it's the race team, it's everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, everybody at the engine shop, everybody at Ford Performance. Everybody is just focused right now, they're working hard. It doesn't matter what kind of racetrack it is, what kind of package it is, we're going to give it 100%, come out and try to win races. Everybody is doing a really good job of that," Childers said.

Childers is modest, of course. Ultimately, the crew chief everyone wishes they had calling the shots had to make a few calls to get Harvick to the front following a pit stop issue.

"I felt like we had a good car going into the race. We were able to lead a lot of that first stage. We had the tire get hung up in the fender on the left front on that first stop, lost some track position. It was hard to fight back from that. Just really wasn't going anywhere much at all. Felt like we had to do something different. That's when we chose to pit out of sequence, come from the back. 

"I really think that turned things around for us, put us in a better position to win the race," Childers explained.

The team would have likely been disappointed if they hadn't won since they arrived at the track with a good car.

"Yeah, I felt like our car was really good on Friday. Wasn't sure if I really wanted to practice this morning or not. We didn't bring a backup car over here at all. If we would have tore it up this morning, we probably wouldn't have raced tonight. 

"It was one of those deals where we just tried to go out there and practice this morning, play it really, really safe, but also try to figure out what the car was doing, what our tire wears looked like, how much tape we could have on the grille, all those things," Childers explained.
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Teams didn't get as much practice as they usually get, but Childers didn't mind.

"I think it ended up enough practice, to be honest. I think everybody at the racetrack and NASCAR did an awesome job of getting us out there. I think all of us sitting in the trailers probably thought we weren't going to qualify yesterday, thought we weren't going to practice any more either. 

"We were pretty nervous from a lot of different things, just not knowing what was going to happen if we didn't practice any more. 

"We just felt like our car was fast. We weren't sure if it was going to handle the best in the world. It was a little bit too tight in practice. Then we got it too loose, then got it too tight again. No matter the balance, it had a lot of speed. That was a big positive," Childers said.

How did Childers feel about the speed with the package they used on Saturday night and the impact it had on strategy and pit stops?

"When you look back at it, there's been a lot of work behind the scenes. I think Rex [Stump, technical director for SHR] blew his computer up about 10 times working on all this stuff trying to figure out this package. Is it going to be more about drag, more about downforce. Honestly, it ended up being different than what we thought. I told somebody in Victory Lane, I'm glad it wasn't 600 miles because we would have needed a different car. 

"It was all about trying to figure out what was the right thing. We brought what we thought was right.  I think the whole garage thought we were going to come over here and just run wide open for 80 laps. It didn't end up being that way. There was a lot of handling involved. Once we saw how much everybody was out of the gas in practice, we had to rethink what we were doing. He said it the same time I said it. We went out in practice 15 laps, put tires on it again, just drove through everybody.  Then the 42 put tires on and drove through everybody. We're like... our original thought was we were going to pit after the first stage, stay out the rest of the time. That wasn't going to happen. You are going to have to have tires. It was a lot different than what we thought it was going to be," Childers explained.

It was all about trying to figure out what was the right thing. After five wins, Childers has that figured out.


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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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

  

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