An interview with: RODNEY CHILDERS
THE MODERATOR: Rodney Childers, crew chief of the winning No. 4 Busch Light Ford for Stewart Haas Racing. Rodney, walk us through your race today from your perspective.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, it was a good day for us. We had I guess you’d call it a good car off the truck. We were able to roll through tech first this morning and able to roll it straight to the grid, relax, just think about the race, what the racetrack was going to do over time, the things that we needed to be prepared for, that kind of thing.
We had a good car at the beginning of the race. We thought being a little bit too tight, we had to free it up for a while. We got it pretty good through the middle of the race. The guys on pit road were awesome all day. We had great pit stops. We had one slipup. Got us back there in traffic for one run. Kevin was able to fight back through there just a little bit.
Then we were able to have another couple pit stops and cautions that the guys were able to knock it out of the park and get us back in the lead. That was really key to get us back in clean air, track position, have control of the race.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Rodney.
Q. There was a lot of speculation on what teams could really do. You were working on your computers at home trying to think up ideas. How much development do you think went on? Did Hendrick get better? Did you get better? Was everybody getting better this whole time? How much of a pause was there?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I mean, all I can do is judge off of what we did. Like you said, our place was probably more strict than what I wanted to see. They shut the whole place down. As you probably saw, I posted it one day, it was 52 days I sat at home and didn’t go to the shop.
This car was actually our Homestead car from earlier in the year. Honestly it was ready to load and go to Homestead. As y’all know we work pretty far ahead. Atlanta car was on the truck headed to Atlanta, actually sitting in the garage. The Homestead car was done, set up. Everything was done about it.
When we went back to work, Zippy could tell you I wore him out. I kept telling him we weren’t going to get things done with how strict they were being on us, the shifts that we were working. Had my shop foreman and three guys in the shop working. From me sitting at home, I can’t see at the shop what’s happening. All I can do is picture in my head that we’ve got a shop foreman and three guys there trying to prepare a car to get it ready to race. I’m used to having 20 guys in the shop and we work 12 hours a day. He’s got three guys along with him and they’re only allowed to work six hours a day.
Finally 52 days later I got to go by the shop and see the car. Honestly I felt 100% better. Those guys, I have such a great group at the shop that work hard. Dale has been around forever and forever and forever. No matter what car he’s the shop foreman on, it wins races. I think a lot of this is part of him and the guys that he’s assembled at the shop, the guys that he trusts. That’s the biggest thing that I saw out of this weekend.
Q. You were talking about being in communication with Zippy. When did you finally get by the shop to see it? What was it that you saw that made you feel better?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I guess it was like Wednesday of last week. I think from the beginning Zippy told us, I don’t want you around all the people. I want to make sure our crew chiefs are healthy and stay that way. We’ll work out a time where you can come by the shop for two hours a week and you can at least put your eyes on it and feel better about it. That’s really what we did.
Last Wednesday I was able to do that and just feel better about it. It’s been interesting to learn through this process what tools are out there. Microsoft Teams, we’ve wore it out with all of our meetings with myself and my three engineers. We’re on it all the time, working together.
Those guys work really hard on setups, figuring out what bump stops, what shocks, what rod heights, all those things that matter. We’ve wore the computer out on that stuff.
They do a good job, they always do. That was a big key in today, for sure.
Q. Did you say something on the radio that you might try to use this car on Wednesday? How realistic is that?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I definitely think it’s realistic. We were fortunate enough not to tear it up. We rolled through the OSS a minute ago. Honestly it looks really good. The center of the back bumper at the bottom is pushed in a little bit from the restarts, getting the bump drafts. Other than that it’s not real bad.
We got some right rear damage from hitting the wall. That stuff is nothing compared to what it could have been. We got great fabricators that can flip it around, put new crush panels in it, have it ready to go.
We haven’t officially decided. I was just on my phone texting with Dale and (indiscernible). We got one there sitting ready to go. The motor’s in it. Supposed to go to the chassis dyno in the morning.
But I don’t know. It’s a two edged sword. You can either take the one that’s sitting there and hope that you get the packer exactly right, the bar preload set exactly right, all those little things, or you can put some crush panels in this one, make the body where it can pass OSS, put the same springs, same bump stops, same packer, go race and have some confidence in what you’ve got.
Q. Any procedures you’d like to see changed for Wednesday or next week?
RODNEY CHILDERS: No. I honestly have been completely blown away through this process. I just said this to Claire on Sirius XM. Same thing. When you’re sitting at home, you don’t realize what’s happening at the shop. You don’t realize what’s happening at NASCAR. You don’t realize who’s working on what, what the procedures are, how is it going to flow.
Even this morning on the way to the racetrack, I’m like, Man, this could be a complete mess trying to get in the racetrack when I get there. I get to the racetrack and everything is just absolutely seamless. Pulling in, the way it was operated outside the racetrack coming in, the amount of detail that was in all that, I was kind of blown away by it.
As I’m going through the tunnel, All right, here is the next part. How bad is tech going to be with me, the engineer and an interior guy? We unloaded off the truck, everybody worked together, the teams, the officials. Everybody respected each other, did everything that they were asked to do.
That’s the part that it just blew me away today. Everybody just did what they were supposed to do. Most of the time that doesn’t happen. It’s impressive that everything went the way that it did.
As far as the procedures, I don’t know what they really could have done any better. The only thing that’s ever going to be any better is to keep working on this virus and keep getting the United States more healthy and get our fans back in the stands one day, keep racing the way we are.
Q. Major advantage today with pit stall one. On Wednesday having a different pit stall, how will that change strategy?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Wednesday we’ll have the same pit stall.
Q. You started off early in the season, didn’t finish worse than ninth. You came in the points leader through the two month break. Did you feel today kind of capped what you had already shown as potential through the first four races of the season?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Well, that’s one thing I talked about a lot with the guys, is just we don’t necessarily have to go out there and win every race. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, keep knocking out top fives and top 10s. It’s easy to say top 10s, but that’s not really the goal either. It needs to be top fives. We were able to do that today.
But I think these situations have always been good for us. I think unloading off the truck is something that my group does a really good job at. I told the guys, We need to take advantage of this over the next month and do the best that we can because if you look back through history, our stats of unloading off the truck fast are pretty good.
That’s the thing that we need to do. We don’t need to let people have time to catch up, whether it be practice or whatever. We strive to be the best when we get here and unload. It’s not always going to be that way. Lord, everybody goes through swings. There’s going to be one of these things in the next seven races that we miss it big time and have to make big changes.
Today was a good day. We learned a lot last year when we were here. We did a lot of things wrong, but we learned a lot. We came back here with a different mindset and did a great job today.
Q. Would you change anything about your personal approach for Wednesday’s race, whether it’s when you left the house, the mental preparation?
RODNEY CHILDERS: No. I mean, honestly, the last two days I really tried to spend more time with my family, just do things to try to ease my mind. If you sit there in front of that computer for eight hours a day and never stand up, finally it just wears on you. Then you end up second guessing everything that’s in your mind, everything that you do.
We were still talking about changing bump stops two nights ago because of a report and all this stuff. I’m like, Look, you guys are the best. We just need to stick with what we thought was right and go with our gut, leave it alone. That’s what we ended up doing, was just deciding three nights ago we were going to leave it alone. We finished it up on Wednesday. It was loaded in the truck Thursday morning. It didn’t stay around in the shop with somebody tinkering on it till Saturday at lunchtime. It was loaded up early and we went with what we thought was right.
Q. With this race being shorter than the Southern 500, did that have any effect on how you played strategy today? With Wednesday night being a sprint race more or less, will that change the approach?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, I’ll be honest, I think Wednesday night is going to be a little tough on us starting back there. Our best case scenario is to have a lot of cautions and the pit crew knock it out of the park like they did today. If you can knock out 12.5 stops every time you come down, you’re going to end up at the front towards the end of the race.
The thing I probably noticed the most today was how we kept firing tires on it. We had a 400 mile race and 12 sets of tires. Honestly I can’t imagine showing up and not having 12 sets of tires. I would have had a heart attack at some point, I believe.
I think the night race, looking at the weather, it’s supposed to be a lot cooler on Wednesday. Things are going to be completely different. The cars are probably going to turn a lot better. Everybody is going to have more tape on the grille, all those things. Going to be faster. Normally when they’re faster, it’s almost harder to pass.
I think the track position thing will be key just like it was today. But overall you got to have a car that’s good, turns good, has good drive off and doesn’t eat the tires off. Hopefully we can do that again on Wednesday night.
THE MODERATOR: Rodney, congratulations on the victory. Good luck on Wednesday night. Safe travels.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
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