BRISTOL, Tenn.—When Rodney Childers joins Stewart-Haas Racing as Kevin Harvick’s crew chief, the move should strengthen both SHR and Hendrick Motorsports, which supplies engines and chassis to the organization co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.
Childers is close to Kenny Francis, crew chief for Kasey Kahne at HMS, and that relationship alone could enhance the bond and the sharing of technical data between the two teams.
“I think it’ll bring the two teams closer together, (help us) work together better, and hopefully it’ll be better for everybody,” Childers said Friday in an exclusive interview with Steve Richards of the Performance Racing Network at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After much soul-searching, Childers told Michael Waltrip Racing on Thursday that he wouldn’t return to the organization’s No. 55 team next year. That leaves MWR searching for a crew chief for driver Brian Vickers, who recently signed to drive the 55 full-time for the next two seasons.
The tipping points for Childers were the opportunity to work with Harvick and the close relationship with Hendrick and its stable of elite drivers. Not since Stewart fired crew chief Darian Grubb (a former mainstay at HMS) after winning the 2011 championship has there been such promise of the two organizations pulling in the same direction.
“When you’ve got Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick all sharing the same notes and run logs and everything else, that’s what makes it so powerful,” said Childers, who met with his MWR team members Friday morning to share the news of his impending departure.
“Going to SHR and working with Harvick is an opportunity that not many people will ever to get, and I was afraid that, if I didn’t take it, I would regret it the rest of my life, and that’s just not something I wanted to do,” Childers said.
In addition to disappointing MWR and the crewmen he has worked with for five years, Childers expressed regret that Vickers, a long-time friend, had found out about the move before Childers had a chance to tell him.
“The part with Brian was probably the hardest part, even though I didn’t get to tell him face to face,” Childers said. “We had everything planned out to where we could talk last night, and then it got to him before I actually got to talk to him.
“So that part wasn’t good. It’s hard on both of us. We’ve known each other for a long time, and I think after a while it will blow over, and hopefully we’ll remain friends like we’ve been our whole lives. He’ll be in really good hands here. They’ve got a really good race team here, and there’s no doubt that he can win races even when I’m gone.”
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