Rodney Childers will call his 600th race as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Childers, the leader of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team with Kevin Harvick, began his career in 2005. One of the most decorated crew chiefs in the garage, Childers has 40 career wins and a Cup Series championship. Most of his success has come with Harvick (pictured above, with Childers), whom he was paired with in 2014.
In all, Childers has worked with eight different drivers and won with three of them.
“When you first start in this sport and you’re trying to work your way up, you just never know where you’re going to end up and how it’s going to go and what opportunities you might get,” Childers said. “To look back on it and say that you’ve crew chiefed 600 races in the Cup Series is kind of crazy. Everybody goes through ups and downs, and you wonder how it’s all going to go. I think everybody knows that my career definitely changed when Kevin wanted me to do this, and to be able to do it for a long time and win a lot of races and all that has been pretty special.”
Childers started with Scott Riggs in 2005 and also worked with Patrick Carpentier and Elliott Sadler early on. In 2009, Childers won his first race as a crew chief with David Reutimann. The duo won another race in 2010.
In 2013, Childers took Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip Racing to victory lane. The team shuttered at the end of the season, and Childers was Harvick’s pick to be his crew chief when Harvick moved to Stewart-Haas in 2014.
“I can remember when I was younger, when I first got into this sport, people like Rusty [Wallace] and different people were having their 600th starts, you’re like, ‘Holy crap, they’ve done this for a long time,’’ said Childers. “Now it’s come to fruition for me and it’s like, ‘Man, it’s definitely been a while,’ but it’s flown by at the same time. It’ll definitely be special to be able to do that. I plan on taking my family down there.
“It’s kind of weird how it all turned out because Talladega weekend was when the boys were born, and I had to jump on an airplane and try to get to the hospital before they were born. It’s just crazy how all that has worked out, and I feel pretty fortunate to be able to do it this long. It just feels like it’s flown by, and you don’t realize some of the things that you’ve accomplished and the things that you’ve done. It’s just hard to put into perspective of doing anything different, either. It’s like all I’ve ever done. It’s pretty neat to get to that 600 mark, for sure.”
Childers and Harvick have 37 wins together in nine seasons. They won the championship in the inaugural season of the elimination format (2014). In nine seasons, they’ve never failed to make the postseason.
“It’s always better to have a longer relationship than trying to fill the gaps with people every three or four years because it’s just hard to get somebody you trust,” Harvick said. “It’s hard to get somebody that’s good. I guess history sort of speaks for itself at this point.”
Despite their similar age, Childers and Harvick are opposites. Childers is very calm and quiet, whereas Harvick describes himself as rambunctious and full of excitement. But the veteran driver believes it’s a good balance for the two.
Childers and Harvick are among the longest-tenured crew chief/driver pairings in the Cup Series. Sunday will be their 314th race together, which has them eighth on the list behind the likes of Richard Petty and Dale Inman (905), Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus (602), Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli (356), and Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe (317).
Of the seven pairings ahead of them on the list, Childers and Harvick are the only ones still together and competing.
“I think a lot of that just falls into the understanding that we know each of us can do the job and we believe in that and each other, and a lot of that comes down to conversations, being able to communicate,” Harvick said. “We communicate well, and I think that’s what makes a good pairing, being able to talk and communicate and put those conversations into action. And when you’re wrong, understanding when you’re wrong, and working through that and not have anybody’s feelings get hurt and start pointing fingers That’s what’s made it work.”