Monday, August 13, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Consumers Energy 400 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens


Some football players wear the same socks during every game; some baseball players elect to wear the same pants after they've won a game in a certain pair; NASCAR drivers just drive the same winning car again and again. Kevin Harvick, for instance, drove the same car to Victory Lane this weekend at Michigan International Speedway that he drove there in June.

Crew chief Rodney Childers, who has now led Harvick to the checkered flag seven times this season, talked about the car after the win.

"Yeah, this car, I think it ran at Fontana first, and then we ended up wadding it up a little too early in the race, but it was fast there, and we brought it to Michigan and it was fast, and then we rebuilt it and brought it back again," Childers said.

That isn't his entire philosophy on running the same car at the same track. Childers explained how he decides which cars he'll run at which tracks.

"I think a lot of people do their stuff differently. I set my schedule up in my cars in January, and then I know where they're going, and there's this much amount of time between them, and this is what we're going to do to them between each race. Trying to run the same car over and over again without making it better, you're not going to win races. 
            
"I almost shed a tear the other day, we got back from Pocono after having a car that was completely dominant, and I walked by the tear-down area and it was nothing but a chassis with no body on it.  That's part of this sport. That's what we do. We try to make our cars better, and you can't sit on your hands," Childers said.
Harvick had some ground to make up after making his final pit stop on Lap 171 and dropping to 20th. Childers was asked whether he had any concerns that maybe some unknown factors could happen, and Harvick couldn't make it back to the front. 

"No, I mean, all those other guys couldn't make it on fuel from there, so they were going to have to pit. The key was coming out of the pits and getting by the three cars as fast as you can so you're back on the lead lap, and then if the caution came out everybody in front of you is going to pit and you're the leader again. That wasn't really any concern at all," Childers explained.

Credit: 357279Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Even though the No. 4 team won the race, it seemed like the car was faster during the first two stages, which they won, than in the closing laps. Childers talked about the changes he made during the team's final pit stop of the afternoon.

"Yeah, before the last pit stop we were a little bit too tight, and these cars are so sensitive these days, and we put a quarter of a round in the right rear and it was way too loose there at the end. Sometimes you just don't know if you should mess with it or not. But that's just part of it. I think a lot of racetracks we're always a little bit freer pitting under green than we are pitting under caution. We went a little bit too far there and definitely got too loose at the end," Childers explained.

As Childers and the rest of the crew on the No. 4 team work toward making a championship run when the playoffs begin in September, they'll spend some time working on pit stops. There seemed to be one stop at Michigan in which the team may have lost a few points. When the name of the game is accumulating as many points as possible, a championship-caliber team doesn't want or need to lose points on a pit stop. Childers discussed their pit strategy.

"We've moved some things around, and those guys have done a good job lately. It's not perfect, but I think it only shows up a little bit more on our car. It really does. But if you look at those reports we get every week, even Pocono, the 18 looked good because he had the fastest stop the last stop of the race and just killed everybody off pit road. But if you look at the rest of the day, they really weren't very good. Sometimes we have ours at the wrong moment and it makes it look bad, but they have worked their tails off, and hopefully we can keep getting better and better, and it's really about confidence. It's not about the players that jump over the wall. It's about having the confidence that something is not going to go wrong; lug nuts aren't going to fall on the ground and you're not going to drop the gun. It's just all that stuff, and it's the same whether you're a crew chief, whether you're a driver or whether you're a pit crew member, you have to have that confidence every single week.  That's the biggest thing we're working on. It showed after the first one that they were able to put it away and do a good job the rest of the day, so hopefully we can keep that up," Childers explained.

What the No. 4 team has been keeping up is consistency. With seven wins, Harvick, along with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., has been the car to beat all season. It's a trend that will likely continue all the way to Miami in November.

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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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