Don’t be too quick to judge.
That’s the lesson this writer learned while figuring out the situation with Michael Waltrip Racing and Rodney Childers. Childers has departed the No. 55 Toyota after being with Michael Waltrip Racing for five years.
Childers will reportedly sign with Stewart-Haas Racing, with an official announcement expected within the next few days. It’s likely that Childers will be the crew chief for either Kevin Harvick, or the newly-signed Kurt Busch. Either way, maybe it’s best for Childers to leave the team that helped him grow into one of the most respected crew chiefs in NASCAR.
After all of the reports swarming around the NASCAR world, it seemed like Childers just gave up on the team after Michigan. He and Mark Martin both left the team and there’s a reason why to it. But, let’s get into how this all happened.
With Tony Stewart‘s leg injury, his team needed a driver to fill the majority of the races. Clearly, they weren’t going to hire just anyone to drive the car — they wanted a veteran driver. They ended up selecting Martin. Even though there was plenty of controversy to let Martin go, the team decided it was best to enable Brian Vickers to get a head start on his 2014 season.
It was rumored that Childers and Vickers would be working together for the two years that Vickers signed on to drive the No. 55 Aarron’s car, but it won’t be that way after all. The combination has done well over the past two years, including a win and five top-five finishes over the course of 15 races.
Then, the news came out that Childers was leaving. Most people thought that he left the team because Martin left and just didn’t want to continue working with Vickers. They believed he was heading over to Stewart-Haas Racing just for the money, well it isn’t that simple.
“I didn’t quit on anyone … I made a personal decision for myself and my family for 2014 … They decided they wanted to pay me to sit at home,” Childers said in a conversation on Twitter. “For the rest of the year … I wanted to try to win races like I do every week until the end of the year.”
Basically, Michael Waltrip Racing sidelined one of the best crew chiefs in the business because of rumors. Now, Childers has to wait until he signs his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing to get back at work.
Childers wouldn’t go into detail as to what Michael Waltrip Racing did to push him away from the company. However, he claimed that most of the employees at the race shop disagreed with how they treated him throughout the situation. This could change Michael Waltrip Racing for the rest of it’s existence.
If details of how the team treated Childers are unleashed somehow, expect several key employees to leave their operation by the start of next season. It’s not too surprising that the team let go of Childers considering they may want a fresh start with Vickers going full-time in 2014. Besides that, the move may give Childers the upper hand. He’ll be with an established team that can clearly contend for race wins.
The only problem at Stewart-Haas Racing is going to be getting adjusted to having four teams. It’ll be a difficult task, but with a crew chief like Childers leading the way, it should be easy for whichever driver he gets paired up with. Remember though, his role may not be a crew chief — it could be something else within the organization, but that’s unlikely.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.