Kevin Harvick’s Richmond finish brought him to 60 wins. Crew chief Rodney Childers reached a milestone of his own: 40 wins.
“I was thinking about this when he (Harvick) was talking about 60,” Childers said after the race. “I remember the day in Victory Lane when he looked at me and said this was 40. And today is 40 for me. I remember that day, and wondering if I would ever get there.”
Unless they enjoy a long partnership with a single amazing driver, crew chiefs rarely amass as many wins as drivers. If a team is not winning, the crew chief is often the first element to be changed.
Between 2005 and 2014, Childers worked with seven different drivers between stints at Evernham Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing. He called races for drivers from Patrick Carpentier to Mark Martin during that time.
He moved to Stewart Haas Racing in 2014 as part of Harvick’s hand-picked new team. Harvick and Childers won the Cup Series championship that year.
In 595 starts, Harvick has 40 wins, 168 top-five finishes and 277 top-10 finishes.
Richmond has changed in recent years from a typical short track to a strategy track. Childers appreciates the challenge of tracks where winning isn’t a matter of pure speed.
“We don’t have a lot (of tracks) left to be able to do that kind of thing,” Childers said. “But to be able to split a stage into thirds is not something that the average fan would sit in the stands and realize that is going to happen. If they just look at the laps and how far each person can go on fuel, you’re like, well, why would they do that.”
Improvement Wasn’t Overnight
The team broke a 65-race losing streak at Michigan, but Childers traces the team’s improvement to two months ago.
“It started two months ago, and you could just see everybody — the communication and the confidence and the cars we were building and all that stuff just got better,” Childers said. “It doesn’t take a lot of confidence with our group to make a huge difference.”
Harvick noted that the team was made up of similar types of people. They talk openly about what — or who — needs improvement without anyone taking it as a personal attack.
“That’s the kind of group that we are,” Childers added. “We talk about anything and everything. We talk about somebody’s birthday, we talk about somebody’s anniversary, we talk about somebody’s kid being born last week.”
But, he emphasized, that personal connection lays the foundation for a strong team.
“But it’s really just about keeping the system the same and not being over here one week and over here the next week. And just treating people the same, treating people right and doing the right things.”
An announcement came just as Childers and Harvick left the media center stage. There were no issues in tech inspection.
The usually stoic crew chief raised both fists in the air. Rodney Childers’ 40th win was now official.
I bet he was strategizing for Watkins Glen on the walk back to the hauler.