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Kevin Harvick knows how to push his team members’ buttons … and his crew chief does, too

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Kevin Harvick’s public displeasure with his pit crew (most notably after a slow stop cost him the Southern 500 last season) has been well-documented.

Less well known is how normally mild-mannered crew chief Rodney Childers also can get upset with his No. 4 team’s performance.

That was evident when Harvick qualified outside the top 10 after reaching the final round of a playoff race last fall.

Childers wasn’t amused, as he explained on Wednesday’s episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

“I threw my chair and did everything (Harvick) would have done and may have even have acted like Kurt Busch for a minute,” Childers said with a laugh during the podcast. “But it’s just because we all care. If you don’t care, you aren’t going to make it. We have a good relationship like that.”

In an interview last October at NASCAR Plaza, Harvick told a group of reporters that he has “no problem pushing the buttons” of team members to motivate performance.

“I’m going to push everyone’s buttons,” Harvick said. “I’d expect them to push my buttons. That’s a mutual respect we have with the team.”

Childers confirmed he knows how to push his driver’s buttons and does when necessary.

“He knows when I’m mad without saying anything,” Childers said. “If I get quiet, something’s wrong.

“If I told him he’s getting beat in the corner or not getting in hard enough, he believes me. It’s nice to have that relationship.”

Despite the occasional public berating, Childers said Harvick “cares more about his pit crew guys than any driver I’ve been around. He’ll send texts to those guys, take them places. All this stuff, all the time.”

The No. 4 team won an intrasquad pit crew competition at Stewart-Haas Racing last week, posting stops in the 10.5- to 11-second range.

“We’ve got the right players,” Childers said. “We made a change later in the (2016 season) that fixed most of our (pit crew) problems, but it comes down to a company thing. We’ve been behind on parts and pieces. … You could see at the end of the year, pull up (pit) stops from Homestead, it was impressive. They’ve proved they can beat everybody on pit road if the guns stay with them. We made huge improvements over the winter.”

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte on challenges of avoiding speeding penalites

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NBC Sports analysts Steve Letarte joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast this week. One of the topics the former crew chief discussed is the challenge of avoiding speeding penalties on pit road. Letarte said the introduction of digital dashboards has made it even harder.

Watch the video to hear his thoughts.

NASCAR America: Comparing severity of Harvick, Keselowski and Allmendinger penalties

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NASCAR handed out two crew chief suspensions in the Cup this week following the race weekend in Phoenix while another was upheld on appeal.

Brad Keselowski‘s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, was suspended three races and the team was docked 35 driver and owners points for failing weights and measurements in post-race inspection.

Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, was suspended one race and the team docked 10 driver and owner points for an unapproved track bar slider assembly.

The penalties for AJ Allmendinger‘s team, including the suspension of crew chief Randall Burnett, was upheld after an appeal.

The NASCAR America crew debates which team is hurt the most by their penalties.

 

Mario Andretti tries out, approves of Charlotte Motor Speedway road course

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We now have two positive reviews of the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Following AJ Allmendinger‘s comments back in January, IndyCar legend Mario Andretti has shared his thoughts on the 2.4-mile circuit that will likely host a NASCAR Cup race in fall 2018.

As a guest of the track and the NASCAR Racing Experience, the 77-year-old driver piloted two cars – a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid and a 2017 Cadillac CTS-V. Andretti maxed out at 177 mph in the Porsche.

“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” Andretti said in a press release. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”

The “roval” circuit would use most of the 1.5-mile oval NASCAR already competes on.

Allmendinger took part in a data test on the road course in mid-January and later said it “was a lot of fun.”

Earlier this month, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said the track “learned a lot” from the test.

“We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the ‘roval,'” Smith told NBC Sports, adding that “several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence” were being transported in for installation.

The Cup Series has two road courses on it schedule, at Sonoma Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York.

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Drivers unhurt in crash of Furniture Row Racing hauler near Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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The drivers of the Furniture Row Racing hauler carrying Erik Jones’ No. 77 Toyota were uninjured Thursday in a hit-and-run accident 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Travis Watts, who was behind the wheel, and David Shano were traveling from Phoenix Raceway to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, when their tractor-trailer rig was struck shortly after midnight on Interstate 15, according to a team release. The team said a car carrying two occupants pulled off the shoulder and back onto the highway directly in front of the truck, causing front-end damage to the tractor.

The team said there was no damage to the trailer or its interior, which was carrying Jones’ cars.

“We’re all very relieved no one was injured in the incident,” team president Joe Garone said. “There was substantial damage to the tractor, but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK. We’ve rented a tractor and the No. 77 hauler is on schedule to arrive at Auto Club Speedway later (Thursday).”

The team rented a replacement tractor at a Rush Truck Centers in North Las Vegas.

According to the team, the Nevada Highway Patrol apprehended and arrested the occupants of the car. The team is working to supply police with a video dash cam from the No. 77 tractor.