Kevin Harvick (Left), stands alongside Crew Chief Rodney Childers in victory lane. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Childers, No. 4 Team Bask In ‘Special Win’

The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team has arrived, and in a big way. 

Prior to the team’s victory last week at Michigan Int’l Speedway, driver Kevin Harvick and his crew had endured a 65-race winless streak.

Now, after a second consecutive victory Sunday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, the team is surging toward the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with two races remaining in the regular season.

It was Harvick’s 60th victory at NASCAR’s highest level, tied for ninth on the all-time wins list. 

For crew chief Rodney Childers, it was his 40th career win atop the pit box.

Harvick celebrates after the win. (HHP/Andrew Coppley)

“Yeah, it’s been great the last couple weeks,” Childers said. “To get one here at Richmond is really special to me. It’s my first one here at this race track. I don’t even know how many times I’ve finished second or third here. It’s been a lot. To finally get to victory lane is really special to me personally, and I was thinking about this when he was talking about 60 (wins), 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. It’s just a cool win for all of us, and just to have everything go right again — we had incredible pit stops and every adjustment we made just happened to go the right way. Just everything worked out.”

Even though it worked out in the end of the 400-lap race at Richmond, it was no easy task in the beginning. 

Harvick started 13th, and by the end of Stage 1, had fallen to 16th due to handling issues. 

“We just started the race way too tight and we were just trying to free our car up as much as we could,” Childers said. “We were able to make some round adjustments in the back to take some wedge out and made some air-pressure adjustments throughout the race, a little bit each time.

“We just kept after it, honestly. A lot of times when you have a good car, you kind of get scared and you quit making adjustments,” Childers continued. “It seemed like today we just kind of continued to stay after it a little bit at a time and trying to make it a little bit better because you know your competitors are going to do that, too.”

With only three non-stage caution flags, it left teams with plenty of strategy options. 

The long green-flag runs allowed for Childers to bring Harvick into the pits at different times, giving the driver of the No. 4 the best opportunity to gain an advantage despite tire degradation being a glaring obstacle. 

“All these teams are good at that stuff, right, so we look at the practice falloff, and man, we weren’t 20 laps into practice and my engineer back at the shop is telling me on the intercom, ‘Yep, it’s going to be that, you’re going to have to pit twice, do all those kinds of things.’

The No. 4 team during a pit stop. (HHP/Chris Owens)

“From a math standpoint, it’s about five or six seconds, but on the race track when you have those old tires, you just end up handicapped,” Childers said. “You can’t do anything. You can’t get out of the way, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, and the five seconds turns into 15 seconds. It all comes down to that math and practice and looking at the falloff. It was pretty easy to see yesterday.”

As a result, the No. 4 team is primed to make a run at the post-season. However, that success didn’t happen overnight.

Childers credits tireless meetings for getting every detail right, as the team continue to learn NASCAR’s Next Gen race car. 

“Within the group and within those meetings every Tuesday morning with the 4 team and that small group, you could see it two months ago,” Childers said. “Two months ago, it was like, ‘We ran better here and this is better and this was better and this was better.’ Then the two months before that we would have those meetings and it was like, ‘Well, this was worse, this was worse, this was worse, this was worse.’

“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. It doesn’t take a lot of confidence with our group to make a huge difference.”

Off the track, Childers described the close-knit bond the No. 4 team has, despite hurdles and adversity along the way. 

“I mean, every team in this garage goes through so many negatives that nobody in here ever hears about, whether it’s somebody in your family that’s sick or somebody has got this or got that,” Childers said. “It’s so hard to keep the positives going, even when things are going right.

“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,” Childers continued. “Those are the types of things we talk about. 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.”