Rodney Childers

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 26:  Rodney Childers, crew chief for the #4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 63: Rodney Childers says intentionally going slow was wrong move

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When he met with crew chief Rodney Childers about joining forces three years ago, Kevin Harvick was impressed by what the crew chief’s goals, even if they seemed daunting.

Set the pace in every practice. Win every pole. Lead every lap.

Win every race. Win the title.

The approach has worked for Childers and Harvick, who captured the 2014 Cup championship in their first year together.

And per a recent tweet from Childers, who was the first crew chief guest on the NASCAR on NBC podcast this week, it remains the philosophy for 2017.

“Unless you have that mentality, you’re not ever going to do that,” Childers said on the podcast.

After leading more than 2,000 laps in the 2014 and ’15 seasons, Harvick dropped off to 1,384 laps led in 2016 and didn’t advance to the championship round after two consecutive appearances.

Childers said it was partly because the team drifted from the philosophy.

“At the end of 2015, I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” he said. “People were looking at us too much and end up focused on you. We were (having our car inspected at the NASCAR R&D Center) too many times.”

Childers said the No. 4 team tried to pull things back by having Harvick run slower for early laps in practice.

“It ate me alive,” Childers said. “I told these guys I’m done with that. We’re going back to the same things we said and be fast all the time. I’d rather have it that way.”

The pressure already has been ratcheted up with Stewart-Haas Racing’s switch from Chevrolet to Ford.

“Everybody in our group likes a challenge,” Childers said. “For me, I get bored after a while. You go through a switch like this, it makes you excited again. It makes you work harder. Makes you go through the details again. You look at every little thing.”

During the podcast, Childers also addressed:

–Why SHR’s relationship with Hendrick Motosports had run its course;

–How he pushes Kevin Harvick’s buttons;

–His former career as a driver.

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.

Jimmie Johnson pays it forward to NASCAR Cup, Xfinity rookies

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Long before he won a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup championships, Jimmie Johnson received good advice and guidance from countless individuals in the early years of his career.

Johnson is now paying things forward. At NASCAR’s recent Young Driver’s Conference, where NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series rookies were given instruction on what to expect in their new series, Johnson imparted some of the lessons he learned years ago.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookies this season will include Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota), Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet) and Gray Gaulding (No. 23 Toyota).

Jones and Suarez are already NASCAR champions. Jones won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title; Suarez won the 2016 Xfinity Series champ.

Also in the audience when Johnson spoke were 2017 Xfinity Series rookies William Byron, Matt Tifft, Cole Custer, Spencer Gallagher and Daniel Hemric.

“I was excited to speak, excited to share some of my stories,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “A few of those stories and the points I made consisted of you’ve got to be you. And as you get going through your career, you’re going to be labeled with something if you like it or not.

“People have thought, the first one I had, was that I had a silver spoon in my mouth. People didn’t realize the upbringing I had and how hard I worked to get into those quality rides that provided so much for me. And the other is being vanilla.

“I think that’s all kind of behind me now. But my point to the rookies is you’re going to be labeled something, be you, don’t let the outside world change you. You have to stay focused on who or what you are and what got you to this point.”

Another element that Johnson conveyed to those who are following in his footsteps and tire tracks is patience.

“I’ve given plenty of examples of being patient in my career and how they’ve worked out for me,” Johnson said. “It’s the hardest thing to hear as a driver, to be patient, but it does pay off.”

And never forget where you came from, Johnson added.

“The other piece is remember everybody as you’re climbing this ladder because at some point, you’re going to have come down that ladder,” he said. “Not everybody makes it to being a full-time driver and has a driving job.

“Rodney Childers (Kevin Harvick’s crew chief) is my example for that. Rodney and I came in and were both racing for rookie of the year honors in the Busch Series in 2000. Our paths took far different routes, but we still ended up with championships (Johnson with seven Cup championships, Childers won the 2014 Cup championship with Harvick).”

In conclusion, Johnson summed up what he told the young drivers.

“So you never know where you’re going to end up, don’t burn bridges, remember how to handle things and worry about your reputation.”

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Social roundup: A NASCAR snow day

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 25:  Crew members of the Nicoderm CQ Dodge build a snowman with the residual snow in the pits during the red flag stoppage in the NASCAR Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 on March 25, 2006 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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The start of the NASCAR season is still over a month away but there was a different kind of excitement taking over NASCAR nation Saturday.

Snow!

A winter storm blanketed some of the East Coast, including parts of North Carolina inhabited by NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, and many others. Which means it didn’t take long for snow day pictures to start surfacing on social media.

Side note: Props to Logano and company for including one of the partners on his No. 22 Ford, Coca-Cola.

 

While most of the NASCAR community was enjoying the snow, a few did escape to warmer parts to take care of some important business: Getting married.

Also tying the knot is 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch and Ashley Van Metre.

NASCAR executive on 29-lap caution: ‘It took longer than it should have’

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NASCAR officials say they have to do a better job after a 29-lap caution left fans and competitors confused and frustrated Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Officials plan to meet today to dissect why it took so long to get the running order set.

“We acknowledge that we need to do a better job in those circumstances,’’ said Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted after Sunday’s race that “if we knew amount of time-would have gone red flag.’’

As to why the race wasn’t stopped to sort out the running order, Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “We didn’t think it would take as long as it ultimately did. There was a point in there where a red flag may have been appropriate. We kind of got past that and had what we had and managed it the best we could from there.’’

Instead of the field being stopped, cars circled the .526-mile track at about 35 mph. Officials worked to determine the order after the caution flag waved on Lap 358 in the middle of green-flag pit stops.

Among the issues, Miller and Richard Buck, Cup series director, who talked to the media after the race, cited:

— The caution came during a green-flag pit cycle where some cars had pitted and some had not.

— Compounding the situation is that a car typically loses at least one lap on a green-flag pit stop.

— Leader AJ Allmendinger, who had not pitted, ran out of fuel and had to pit when pit road still was closed.

— Determining which car was eligible for the free pass (it was Jeff Gordon)

— Determining which cars were eligible to pass the pace car and fall in line behind the leader.

“It was such a unique situation that we almost had to look at each car to make sure we were doing right by each and every car in the field,’’ Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It took longer than it should have.’’

NASCAR officials said they used timing and scoring data with video.

“Usually in those circumstances, a group of cars will fall into a block … but this had so many elements to it and us having the responsibility we had to make sure we got it right, it took longer than it should have, but in the end I think we got it right and feel good about that,’’ Miller said.

As series officials tried to sort out all the issues, teams were confused. Crew chief Chad Knaus was in disbelief that Kyle Busch was on the lead lap, saying on the team’s radio that this was “the biggest freebie in history.’’

Denny Hamlin, who became the leader, was upset that cars passed him under caution, including Chase contender Kevin Harvick. Hamlin directed his anger on the radio toward O’Donnell, saying: “It’s not right. They can’t go green. O’Donnell, I told you to get this (expletive) right!’’

Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick, said Harvick was in front of Hamlin and that Hamlin drove by Harvick. Childers said they were directed by NASCAR to pass Hamlin and the pace car.

Miller and Buck did not address why specific cars were aligned where they were.

Buck said NASCAR officials would explain to teams what happened and why cars were placed where they were.

“I’m looking forward to this week to have an opportunity to talk to Richard or Steve or Scott, the guys at NASCAR, to understand what went on there,’’ Knaus said after the race, won by Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s a challenge, man. When you have 40 cars going around a half‑mile racetrack, people start to pit, one guy is 12 seconds back, the other guy is three seconds back. It’s still very, very confusing to me right now.’’

Team R&D departments are keeping busy after recent rule change

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LOUDON, N.H. — NASCAR’s recent decision to change the penalty structure with the Laser Inspection Station after races has R&D departments working furiously to help Chase teams maximize the new tolerances heading into this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

The change, which came after the first Chase race, has some teams scrambling and had New Hampshire winner Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers frustrated.

“We just haven’t been racing with the same types of scenarios that a lot of the other cars have,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports after his win last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I have no doubt we’ll figure it out, but it’s just a short amount of time to figure it out. That’s really my biggest concern. I don’t care what the rules are. Just tell me what the rules are and we’ll figure it out.

“At this particular point, you get one week into the Chase and go and knock on the R&D department’s door and say, ‘Hey, guess what? The rules are different now, and you’ve got to go out and figure it out.’ ’’

NASCAR’s decision came after the cars of Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson failed on the Laser Inspection Station following the opening Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway won by Truex. NASCAR said after the race that both teams faced a P2 penalty, the lowest level for such an infraction.

A few days later, NASCAR announced that neither driver would be penalized, noting that Truex would advance because of his win, but the penalty could hinder Johnson’s chances of advancing with him facing a 10-point deduction.

By eliminating the possibilities of a P2 and P3 penalty, teams have a greater amount that their cars can be over the standard before being penalized. The P4 penalty remains and carries the loss of 35 points, a three-week suspension for a crew chief and a $65,000 fine. If it happens to a winning team, the victory won’t count for advancing to the next round.

NASCAR also announced last week that every car eligible for the championship would go through the Laser Inspection System after each Chase race. All 16 cars passed last weekend at New Hampshire, NASCAR announced. 

Harvick wasn’t alone in his frustration. Crew chief Rodney Childers was not pleased because he felt like he was suddenly behind in the midst of the playoffs.

“To be honest, I was mad about it,’’ Childers told NBC Sports. “I talked to (NASCAR) about it. They understood. We’ve been over there a lot of times and we’ve never had one issue. We’ve passed LIS the first time across every time for three years. When we go to the R&D Center, we’ve never had anything loose, we’ve never had truck arm mounts moving or trackbar mounts moving. We’ve never had anything.

“To be honest, I was frustrated. I was told that all that stuff was going to go away and get taken care of. When we opened the window up even bigger, it was a huge disadvantage for us going forward and makes us feel like we’re in a hole and we’re six months behind in development to make something like that work.’’

Truex said he appreciated NASCAR’s decision last week, noting that he has questions about the Laser Inspection System’s reliability. NASCAR has defended the Laser Inspection System’s integrity and dependability.

Furniture Row Racing stated the left rear of the car was off by about 10-thousandths of a degree of rear toe after the Chicago race, while the right rear was within the acceptable tolerance.

Truex found the matter perplexing.

“A Sprint Cup car has a solid rear axle,’’ he said. “Both wheels, they can’t move independently. So let’s say you go across the lasers before the race and your right rear is 40-thousandths to the good and your left rear is 40-thousandths to the good. Go race. All of a sudden your right rear is still 40-thousandths to the good but your left rear is 10-thousandths to the bad. How did one side move and the other side stay in place? Solid rear axle. The rear end housing is not going to bend during a race.

“If the laser platform in my opinion was consistent, both wheels should have been off the same amount that they were before the race.’’

Truex questions how much of a difference even 40-thousandths can make based on an experience his team had at Kansas Speedway earlier this year. He was second fastest in the practice session before qualifying. When they went through pre-qualifying inspection, Truex said his car was off between 20- and 40-thousandths.

“It was quite a bit,’’ he said, not recalling the number exactly.

“It was like how in the heck is it this far off when we went through before practice and it was where it needed to be? Nothing changed. Obviously the measurement was off. So we moved it that much and still went out and got the pole.’’

“Everybody wants as much as they can get. Is 10-thousandths worth a thousandth of a second? I can’t tell you. I think it depends on the racetrack and a lot of other things.’’