Rodney Childers will make his 600th race as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Childers, co-driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas racing team with Kevin Harvick, began his career in 2005. Childers, one of the most decorated team managers in the garage, has 40 career wins and a Cup Series championship. Most of his success came with Harvick (pictured above, with Childers)with whom he was paired in 2014.
In all, Childers worked with eight different drivers and won with three of them.
“When you’re first starting out in this sport and trying to work your way up, you just never know where you’re going to end up, how it’s going to go and what opportunities you might get,” Childers said. “To look back on it and say you drove a crew in 600 races in the Cup Series is kind of crazy. Everyone goes through ups and downs and you wonder what will happen next. I think everybody knows that my career definitely changed when Kevin wanted me to do it and for me to be able to do it for a long time and win a lot of races and all of that was pretty special.”
Childers started with Scott Riggs in 2005 and also worked with Patrick Carpentier and Elliott Sadler in the early stages. In 2009, Childers won his first race as crew chief with David Reutimann. The duo won another race in 2010.
In 2013, Childers led Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip Racing to victory. The team folded at the end of the season, and Childers was selected by Harvick as team principal when Harvick moved to Stewart-Haas in 2014.
“I remember when I was younger, when I first started playing the sport, people loved Rusty [Wallace] and different people making their 600th start, you’re like, ‘Damn, they’ve been doing this for a long time,'” Childers said. “Now it’s coming to fruition for me, and it’s like, ‘Man, it’s definitely been a while,’ but at the same time, it just flew by. It will definitely be special to be able to do that. I plan to take my family there.
“It’s kind of weird how it all worked out because the boys were born in Talladega over the weekend and I had to get on a plane and try to get to the hospital before they were born. It’s just crazy how it all worked out and I’m so lucky to be able to do it for so long. It feels like it flew by and you don’t realize what you’ve achieved and what you’ve done. It’s just hard to put into perspective doing anything differently, either. It’s like everything I’ve ever done. It’s pretty neat to get to that 600 mark, probably.”
Childers and Harvick combined for 37 wins over nine seasons. They won the championship in the first season of the knockout format (2014). In nine seasons, they never made the postseason.
“It’s always better to have a longer relationship than trying to fill in the gaps with people every three or four years, because it’s just hard to find someone you trust,” Harvick said. “It’s hard to find someone good. I guess history speaks for itself at this point.”
Despite being the same age, Childers and Harvick are polar opposites. Childers is very calm and quiet, while Harvick describes himself as rambunctious and full of excitement. But the veteran driver believes it’s a good balance for both.
Childers and Harvick are among the longest serving crew chiefs and drivers in the Cup Series. Sunday will be their 314th race together, placing them eighth on the all-time list behind Richard Petty and Dale Inman (905), Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knauss (602), Tony Stewart and Greg Zippadelli (356), Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe (317).
Of the seven couples ahead of them on the list, Childers and Harvick are the only ones still together and competing.
“I think a lot of it just comes down to knowing that we know that each of us can do the job, and we believe in that and in each other, and a lot of it comes down to conversations, being able to communicate,” said Harvick. “We communicate well, and I think that’s what makes a good couple, being able to talk and communicate and put those conversations into action. And when you’re wrong, realizing that you’re wrong and working on it so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings and start pointing fingers. That’s what made it work.”