Tough early days on 4 team lead to championship opportunity for Rodney Childers (VIDEO)

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With Kevin Harvick coming on board this season to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing, the team had an almost Herculean task of pulling together everything they would need to be competitive.

When his crew chief, Rodney Childers, recalls those tough early days, you can hear the marvel in his voice about how it all got done.

“There’s not too many people that would’ve went through that, and I really expected people to work a couple months, realize how bad it was, then turn around and walk out the door – and nobody ever gave up,” he said today during a NASCAR teleconference.

And now, because of all that effort, Harvick, Childers and the No. 4 team are one race away from capturing a Sprint Cup championship in their first season together.

Harvick earned the automatic berth to this Sunday’s Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway thanks to his win last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

It left Childers pondering everything they had been through and also about being able to do something he’d long wanted to do as a crew chief.

“For me, personally, I’ve wanted to be part of something like that for a long time,” he said. “I’ve wanted to race for a championship and I’ve never really had that opportunity, so to be able to do that is just something exciting to me.

“…It’s emotional for everybody and it’s important to everybody.”

The No. 4 SHR team won in its second start ever at Phoenix in the spring, but while they would win again at Darlington in April, the group became known for having one setback after another destroy chances for more victories.

The pile of otherwise superb performances that were ruined through either mechanical failures, pit crew gaffes, or mistakes by Harvick himself grew. But Childers said that he was expecting such things to occur as the team jelled together.

“We had parts and pieces that had never been raced before,” he said. “We built race cars that had never been tested before. When we started the season, we didn’t have a single chassis, a single radiator, oil cooler, rear-end housing, oil lines, fuel lines – there was none of that stuff that had never been raced before.

“Everything [SHR] had raced before…We didn’t use any of it. I kinda expected us to have those kinds of problems until we all got it figured out.”

But now, with the team seemingly firing on all eight cylinders, Childers looks back with pride.

“That’s been the coolest thing, to see how hard everybody worked to get all that stuff done,” he said. “When we showed up at Daytona [at the beginning of the year], I was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe we’re even here. I can’t believe we got all that stuff done.’

“So to be competitive as we have been all year was – I really thought it would be June before we really got going. There’s a lot of hard work that went into all of it.”

And to Childers, seeing that hard work has helped fuel Harvick’s own competitive spirit.

While Harvick has shown his frustrations at times this season about not converting speed into wins, he’s also worked to keep spirits up on the team as well.

It’s something that Childers appreciates, and so, he and his team work to do their best for him. In turn, it makes Harvick work equally to do his best for them.

“I think just being around all of these positive people on the race team and people wanting the same thing that he does – he’s competitive and he wants to work so hard that he expects everyone around him to work just as hard,” he said of his driver. “So when he sees that, it makes him tick.

“If he knows we’re at the shop and doing everything we can possibly do and giving 110 percent, then he’s gonna give 110 percent.”

Kyle Larson wins High Limit Sprint race at Tri-City Speedway ahead of Rico Abreu

Larson High Limit Tri-City
High Limit Sprint Car Series

A late race caution set up a 14-lap shootout at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois with Kyle Larson winning his second consecutive High Limit Sprint Car Series race over Rico Abreu.

Starting eight on the grid after a disappointing pole dash, Larson missed several major incidents as he worked his way to the front. On Lap 1 of 35, a five-car accident claimed Tyler Courtney and Michael “Buddy” Kofoid, who both took a tumble and before collecting three other cars. Once that red flag was lifted, it didn’t take long for drivers to get tangled again as the leader Danny Dietrich experienced engine trouble on Lap 8. When he slowed rapidly, second-place Brent Marks collided with his back tire, ending the day for both.

Larson moved up to fourth with this incident.

Another red flag on Lap 21 for a flip involving Parker Price-Miller set up the dash for the win.

“My car felt really good and then we got that red,” Larson said from victory lane. “I was kind of running through the crumbs before that in 3 and 4; I could tell the top was getting really sketchy. Parker was making mistakes up there.

“When the red came out, I could see there was a clean lane of grip – not just marbles. It’s hard to see when you’re at speed. I figured Rico was going to run the top and he did. I got to his inside a couple of times and I was like ‘please don’t go to the bottom,’ and I threw a slider on him. Then he went to the bottom and I thought I was screwed until he spun his tires really bad off the corner and I was able to hit the top okay and get another run and slide him. I got good grip off the cushion.”

The victory makes Larson the first repeat winner in the series’ five-race history. He beat Justin Sanders earlier this month at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio.

With 10 laps remaining, Larson caught and pressured Abreu. The two threw a series of sliders at one another until Abreu bobbled on the cushion and lost momentum.

“Anytime you race Rico and he’s on the wall like that, you have to get aggressive,” Larson said. “He’s pushing so hard that just to stay in the striking zone if he makes a mistake, you have to push hard too.”

For Abreu, it was his second near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps.

“I felt like I made a lot of mistakes at the end,” Abreu said. “It’s just hard to judge race pace. You’ve got Kyle behind you and [Anthony] Macri and these guys that have had speed all year long. I was racing as hard as I could and the mistake factor is more and more critical.”

Cory Eliason earned his career-best High Limit finish of third after starting deep in the field in 13th.

Macri lost one position during the race to finish fourth with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. rounding out the top five.

Visiting from the NASCAR Cup series, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th in the 25-car field after advancing from the B-Main.

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway