Kevin Harvick Crew Chief Rodney Childers Disses Bristol Dirt, Sounds Off on Team’s Struggles, and Laments Injuries to Lobsters
One of the most soft-spoken and approachable crew chiefs in the NASCAR Cup Series garage, Rodney Childers, isn’t one to stir the proverbial pot unless asked specifically about a spicy topic. And even then, don’t expect the longtime crew chief for Kevin Harvick to ruffle too many feathers — that’s just not his style.
However, in some rare moments of unscripted candor, Childers made no bones about his feelings on several subjects of interest during a conference call with reporters earlier this week.
Let’s delve into what the veteran pit boss had to say and consider how some of his comments could resonate in the days ahead.
Rodney Childers is not a fan of the Bristol dirt race
Asked on Wednesday’s call to discuss the one track he wouldn’t mind seeing dropped from the Cup Series schedule, Rodney Childers didn’t sugarcoat his feelings.
“The one that hurts my heart the most is putting dirt on Bristol, just because I love (that track) so much,” Childers said. “Bristol is a completely incredible race track, and I’m perfectly fine with running dirt somewhere – I just don’t want to do it at Bristol.”
Childers’ sentiment on the Tennessee short track covering its familiar white concrete racing surface in red clay for its spring 2021 and spring 2022 Cup race isn’t that different from the sentiment of his driver, who ridiculed the Bristol dirt following an early exit from this year’s Easter Sunday event on the .533-mile high-banked oval.
“If I had my choice, we wouldn’t be doing this anyway,” Harvick, who has finished 15th and 34th on the Bristol dirt, told a group of reporters. “What’s the point, really?”
Childers – though hardly in love with the idea of Bristol not hosting both of its annual Cup races on hardtop – does acknowledge some potential benefit in having a race on dirt.
“It’s been a good show every time we’ve done it, and been a great race, and the fans have loved it, so I’m good with that, too,” the 2014 Cup championship-winning crew chief said. “There’s not many (tracks) that I just despise. I think all of them are OK.”
No one can blame Childers for preferring the Bristol concrete over the dirt. After all, Harvick has three Cup wins in Thunder Valley – two of them with Childers atop his pit box. Harvick captured the spring Bristol race with Richard Childress Racing in 2005, long before anyone considered turning Bristol into a dirt track for the spring event. Both of Harvick’s victories with Childers and Stewart-Haas Racing have come in the fall night race – which has remained on concrete.
“That Bristol Night Race has always meant a lot to me, and Kevin will tell you a million times that it seems like Rodney works harder when it comes Bristol Night Race time,” Childers said on Wednesday. “Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t, but it really just comes down to confidence more than anything.”
That’s a confidence that Harvick and Childers clearly lack when Bristol gets doused in dirt.
Rodney Childers takes no satisfaction in 2022 performance
Although still with a shot to make the Cup Series playoffs, Kevin Harvick is winless after 19 races in 2022. If the playoffs began today, Harvick – who trails playoff bubble man Christopher Bell by 19 points – would be the first driver to miss the cut.
Childers – the crew chief responsible for all 35 of Harvick’s victories since the driver and crew chief joined SHR together in 2014 – takes no pleasure in the team’s 2022 performance, which includes just four top-five finishes.
“It’s definitely not been what we want, for sure,” Childers said. “For our team, we’re expected to go out there and win eight or nine races a year, and when you don’t do that, it’s a huge disappointment.”
Complicating matters for Harvick’s No. 4 team has been a combination of recurring issues on pit road and struggles acclimating to the Cup Series’ Next Generation race car that made its official debut in February’s Daytona 500.
“You want to go into this new car and come out with a bang,” Childers said. “I think we’ve all seen that we obviously haven’t been able to do that, and it’s taken a lot of adjustment from a memory standpoint, whether it’s driver, crew chief, road crew – everybody involved – it’s just trying to get our hands and arms wrapped around it and figure it out and go out there and compete.”
Will Childers’ comments inspire the team and perhaps even serve as a catalyst for Harvick to make a late playoff push? That remains to be seen. Undeniable, however, is the level of Childers’ dissatisfaction – particularly with how the team has fared with the Next Gen car.
“I think you all know me good enough that if you’re not winning, you suck,” Childers said. “My grade right now is a ‘D.’ We need to be doing a lot better. Our guys have worked really hard, and it’s not been from a lack of effort. But we need to be winning races and doing the things that we’re supposed to be.”
Rodney Childers is more focused on protecting lobsters than eating them
Turning his attention to Sunday’s Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where Kevin Harvick has four wins, three with Rodney Childers at the helm, the crew chief on Harvick’s No. 4 Ford made a confession when asked about the giant lobster trophy awarded to winners at the 1.058-mile track.
Apparently, he and Harvick haven’t had much too much luck keeping their lobsters out of harm’s way.
“Kevin had the first one, and I think that was when [Harvick’s son] Keelan was still pretty small, and he ended up breaking the arms off of it one day,” Childers said. “Then mine – one of the dogs accidentally chewed on it a little bit one day. The other one is actually sitting right here behind me. One of them is still sitting in my office, so that way, nobody messes it up.”
For what it’s worth, Childers does enjoy eating lobster, but he generally refrains from making a meal out of the infamous sea creature.
“I love it, but most of the time, I look at the menu and see how expensive it is, and I just go for something cheap,” Childers said. “But I’m probably a once-a-year lobster guy. I like it all different ways, but most of those lobsters are about 20 percent of what we get handed in Victory Lane. Those are a little bit massive.”
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