Four for No. 4: Crew chiefs reflect on Kevin Harvick’s special bonds, lasting legacy

The No. 4 has been nearly omnipresent this NASCAR season, almost as much as the 75 that’s commemorated the sport’s diamond-anniversary celebration. Both numbers have provided an opportunity to toast enduring success on two accounts — 75 signifying a major milestone for the stock-car racing circuit, and No. 4 in recognition of one of the sport’s greatest participants, who made that car number his own.

Kevin Harvick’s journey with the No. 4 will end this week in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway as the 47-year-old driver — a surefire NASCAR Hall of Famer when eligible — brings his Cup Series career to a close. He leaves a compelling on-track legacy but will continue to write his racing story as an analyst with FOX Sports’ broadcasting team next season.

Before crafting a lasting identity with the No. 4, Harvick forged into NASCAR’s top division under the most traumatic of circumstances with No. 29. He won with both numbers, with both teams that employed him and in four — there’s that number again — generations of Cup Series stock cars.

RELATED: Photos: Kevin Harvick through the years

Four also holds a special place for Harvick when counting the number of crew chiefs who won Cup Series races with him through the years. That impressive total of 60 wins is shared among Kevin Hamlin, Gil Martin, Todd Berrier and current crew chief Rodney Childers, and all four have lifetimes of racing memories in their blood.

In some cases, these crew chiefs worked alongside Harvick during times of tragedy. In all cases, there was triumph, and no denying their driver’s talent, grit and tenacity to push each team forward. There was also that 56-year-old bottle of wine, an all-timer of a post-race press conference, the million-dollar bet sketched out on a napkin and the trip for ice cream that once launched the NASCAR rumor mill into a tizzy.

More on that in a bit. interviewed each crew chief during Harvick’s last handful of weekends in Cup Series competition. In keeping with the spirit of the #4EVER theme for Harvick’s farewell season, here is the best of those four conversations.

Richard Childress Racing crew chief Kevin Hamlin
Richard Childress Racing

Kevin Hamlin: Grief, then popping the vintage cork

The first meeting for Kevin Harvick and Kevin Hamlin paired as driver and crew chief came under the darkest of circumstances. Harvick had worked alongside Hamlin as he progressed through the Richard Childress Racing pipeline in different series, but the two were about to start a new chapter in the days immediately after Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“I think Harvick’s told the story before,” Hamlin says now, looking back. “I was kind of on a bender for a couple of days there, but we finally decided that was the decision Richard was gonna make. So Harvick came to the shop or whatever, and I probably didn’t make a real good first impression that day. I mean, it wasn’t the first time Harvick ever met me because we’d worked together. … We all worked as a team there anyway, but I had a bottle of Jack Daniel’s about half-empty, kinda slammed it on the desk and said, ‘welp, this is what we’re doing.’

“It was a tough time, a really tough time, because I mean, I didn’t even know if I could even go to the race track anymore. Everybody had it. It was very, very hard. I mean, Richard had a hell of a time. But at the end of the day, we all knew — or we kept telling ourselves — yeah, this is what Dale would want. Yeah, OK, well. It is probably what he would want, but still, it’s like, it doesn’t make it any easier.”

Hamlin, now 64, had joined the organization at another pivotal moment in its history, becoming Mike Skinner’s crew chief when RCR first expanded to a two-car team in 1997. He shifted to the iconic No. 3 to work with Earnhardt nearly midway through the next season, and he was atop the pit box for five classic Intimidator victories — including the “rattle his cage” win over Terry Labonte at Bristol in 1999 and three dramatic Talladega triumphs, including his last in 2000.

MORE: An oral history of Dale Earnhardt’s final victory

Even as the team was building for a run at an unprecedented eighth Cup Series championship for Earnhardt that fateful year, Hamlin said plans were in place for Harvick to become one of the organization’s leaders. He landed on Childress’ radar after an overachieving start in the Craftsman Truck Series and was tapped for RCR’s Busch (now Xfinity) Series program – then in its infancy.

Richard Childress Racing crew chief Kevin Hamlin with Dale Earnhardt
Richard Childress Racing

Hamlin speaks with a ready chuckle, dotting a thick northern accent that gives away his native Michigan roots. He laughs freely about some of those earlier days, noting the determination Harvick showed at a young age. “He failed to qualify at Rockingham after a good run at Daytona, and then he went missing for a whole week,” Hamlin says of the two-race start to Harvick’s rookie Xfinity season. “We always joked we were going to put his picture on a milk carton and see if we could find him.”

Harvick finished third in the standings that year and was slated for another Xfinity championship go in 2001. But those plans included a partial campaign in the Cup Series in a No. 30 RCR entry, announced just days before Daytona.

“We knew that was going to be the future of RCR either way,” Hamlin said. “Sooner or later, Dale was going to end up retiring, so we needed to have some kind of backup plan. And that was the direction that was supposed to go anyway. It just got accelerated quickly. … The whole deal happened, and it was like, holy smokes, how do you even go on from there?”

The preparations for the following weekend at Rockingham were a blur, Hamlin said. The car was outfitted in white with the No. 29 for Harvick’s Cup Series debut, and the team’s grieving process was shared by the NASCAR community. Hamlin and the team pressed onward into the unknown with Harvick’s name above the door, but the measures that RCR had taken to give Earnhardt a shot at title No. 8 began to show in the performance.

Harvick’s talent stood out, too.

“The whole focus on Harvick that year was supposed to be to win the Busch championship, and that’s the way it stayed,” Hamlin said. “We focused on trying to get through that year and run the best we could, and golly, after we finally got our heads kind of straight — or myself, anyway … I don’t know if any of us really did, but the best we could anyways – hell, Harvick probably could have won three of the first five races that he ran in that car. So that shows you how well Harvick adapted and kind of shows you how well-prepared we were to even race that year.”

As hoped, Harvick did claim the Busch Series crown that year, collecting five wins in a remarkably consistent campaign. But his season was best remembered for the breakthrough in Atlanta on the Cup Series side that provided the entire sport with solace.

RELATED: Harvick relives emotional first Cup Series win

It also marked an upgrade for Hamlin’s beverage menu, from the hard stuff to pricey, top-shelf vino.

“All’s I can tell you is that Richard bought this bottle of wine that was the same year as his birthday — Rothchilds — and we’re on the way home on the airplane, and he goes, ‘Hamlin, I tell you what. You and Harvick win your first race, we’re going to open this bottle of wine.’ I was like, ‘OK, hope you’re planning on opening that pretty soon.’ He’s like, ‘well, I hope we can,’ maybe not really wanting to because it’s pretty expensive.”

Richard Childress Racing crew chief Kevin Hamlin with Kevin Harvick
Richard Childress Racing

The 1945 vintage didn’t stay on the shelf long. Harvick’s narrow victory over Jeff Gordon at Atlanta Motor Speedway in just his third Cup Series race that March gave the team and the stock-car racing family an opportunity for healing.

The public celebration from that day remains etched in NASCAR lore. The private celebration later brought Harvick, Childress, Hamlin and their families together at the team owner’s estate to toast their accomplishment. The wine, however …

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good,” Hamlin said with a gleeful chortle. “We opened it, and he’s like, ‘what do you think?’ and I’m like, ‘uh, not sure you want me to really tell you what I think.’ He said, ‘Ah, c’mon.’ Then he went over there and smelled it, and he goes, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I said, ‘well, we could just pour it back in the bottle, put a cork in it, and say we never opened it.’ But we went ahead and drank it anyway. It was kind of a funny celebration.”

Harvick and Hamlin paired for one more victory together – at Chicagoland Speedway that summer – before a crew chief shift the next season split them up. Hamlin won two more Cup Series races at RCR with Robby Gordon and later worked for team owner Bill Davis and the former Red Bull Racing group. These days, his motorsports involvement is connected to Coughlin Brothers Racing, and he dabbled in various short-track series with the team before shifting to its drag racing operations.

But looking back, Hamlin says he’ll always have the fond memories of helping the young prospect from Bakersfield, California, with his first big-league shot.

“He was a very competitive driver, and he had the talent to back it up,” Hamlin says. “He didn’t necessarily do any big talking, or I didn’t think he did anyway, but he just went out there and took care of business.”

Richard Childress Racing crew chief Gil Martin
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Gil Martin: Flying with ‘Chuck Yeager’ and the rollicking post-race Q&A

Gil Martin joined Richard Childress Racing during its most trying year, working on the Busch Series side before eventually returning to Cup, where he’d been a journeyman crew chief through the 1990s. His time with Harvick as an official driver-crew chief pairing wouldn’t start until the next season, but he was involved with the budding star in tests and other aspects of the program early in his RCR tenure.

Early on, he saw a veteran’s poise in Harvick.

“After what happened with Dale and Kevin stepped in right there, he had to completely change directions and change mindsets because he went from a relatively unknown Cup driver to being in the starlight immediately,” Martin said. “He adapted to that pretty well, obviously winning after his third race in Atlanta, but I think that’s kind of his personality. He was so comfortable in the car. It’s like any businessman going to work. His desk was in the car, so he was able to adapt to that quickly. And because he was able to adapt, I think the whole company was able to go forward and just help Richard through that time. I mean, it shows a lot about how much character he had at that young age.”

Character-building was a theme of Martin’s partnership with Harvick, and their stints didn’t take the shape of a straight chronological line. Martin picked up where Hamlin left off in 2002, moved to a team manager role the next year, then reunited with him as crew chief in 2009 for most of Harvick’s last five seasons with the Childress operation.

His first experience with Harvick’s attention to detail came through testing, which teams did without limits in those days. Martin worked extensively on shock packages and set-ups during those trips, and the team championed a different approach that set it on a successful course.

“We basically called him Chuck Yeager all the time,” Martin says. “We were putting things in the car that nobody had done, and the only way to know if they were going to work is to go out and run 100%. An 80% lap wouldn’t produce anything. … So I think that open-mindedness not only led RCR down a path, but other people saw what we were doing, and it led, I think, for the decade from 2002 to probably 2012, it led the sport in a different direction.”

Martin’s experience with Harvick’s tenacity came early, too. In the first of their 13 wins together, the No. 29 Chevrolet spun midrace after Harvick made a bold move to the Chicagoland Speedway apron in the 2002 event there. “I remember he had to go to the back, and he came over the radio and said, ‘tell ’em I’ll be back.’ And so it didn’t take long that he was back to the front,” Martin said.

But the determination Harvick possessed also pushed Martin to be better prepared – for testing, race weekends, everything.

“He wanted to make certain that everybody else was thinking down the road right along with him, and if you weren’t, his delivery could be a little bit harsh at the time,” Martin said. “A lot of the guys, it was too ‘in your face’ for them to be able to handle it … and that’s just the way he operated. If you weren’t on the same page as him on that, he pretty well could be a handful to deal with. But I think that was a good thing because his drive and motivation helped drive everybody else. Whether it was the pit crew, or the guys on the car, or the people in the shop, or sponsors or merchandising, it didn’t matter what it was. He was on top of it and wanted to be a part of it. If you didn’t have the same dedication that he did, he pretty well didn’t want you around because he wanted to be the best at everything he was doing.”

Richard Childress Racing crew chief Gil Martin with Kevin Harvick
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Martin returned to his familiar crew chief role in 2006 to work with a promising young rookie named Clint Bowyer. With RCR in search of a spark during the 2009 campaign, Martin was paired again with Harvick and the timing, he said, was right; both driver and crew chief had matured with Cup Series experience and were willing to find middle ground to make performance gains.

“I know it was good for me in the long run, and it was good for him, too, because sometimes you get complacent with where you’re at, and you think that everything’s always better on the other side,” Martin says. “Sometimes it is, but I think it also helps you to grow, and it helps you to just take a good look at yourself that, knowing that everything you’re doing is not right, that you need to make some changes, you need to be open to change.”

Their second term together ended up being among Harvick’s most successful stretches at RCR. He finished third in the Cup Series standings on three occasions with Martin and won multiple races in three of his last four seasons.

His last victory with the No. 29 team came in the wake of his midsummer announcement that he would depart the Childress organization at season’s end, joining Stewart-Haas Racing for the next phase of his NASCAR career. The lame-duck status didn’t stop the team from closing out strong, with Harvick prevailing on friendly turf at Phoenix Raceway in his next-to-last race at RCR.

MORE: NASCAR Classics, Phoenix 2013

The memories Martin carries from that triumph aren’t necessarily the 70 laps led or Harvick’s decisive grab of the top spot when Carl Edwards’ fuel tank ran dry just before the white flag. What holds in Martin’s mind is the unusually free-wheeling post-race press conference that followed, with Harvick and Childress seated to his left.

“Who knew this was going to be the press conference of the year?” Harvick said midway through their presser as the three sipped on tall, tall cans of their sponsor Budweiser’s product. Martin recalls how loose the three were in celebration, and the crew chief took the opportunity to defend his team from its doubters: “They have to be the toughest group that I’ve been around because the simple reason of everybody’s been expecting us to implode.”

“Most of the time, it’s very professional, and it’s to the point,” Martin says now. “I think with RC and myself there, that it was one of the more laid-back Q&As after a race, I think, just because we were kidding around, and we all knew that that chapter in all of our lives was basically over. Just what an incredible moment it was to be able to experience that, not go out with a bad finish or a bad ending to the year and everything. I think that was a surreal moment for all three of us – at least it was for me, because we were able to joke around and have a Budweiser and just enjoy the moment.”

At 63, Martin still scratches the itch to race. His Cup Series tenure ended in 2015, but he returned to the track in the Trans Am Series last season with High Point, North Carolina-based Silver Hare Racing, now serving as the team’s director of competition. He’s also welcomed a return to winning ways, working with teenage prospect Connor Zilisch, who made history at Virginia International Raceway last month with a sweep of victories in the TA and TA2 classes.

“You write this down,” Martin says when mentioning his name. “As soon as he turns 18, you’re gonna see one of your top Chevrolet teams is going to sign him up.”

If that superstar potential is realized, it will mark the next generation of drivers whom Martin has influenced. The impact of Harvick on Martin’s career and the sport in general is still being felt.

“I think just as far as an innovator, just the way he handled the media, his personality,” Martin says. “I mean, obviously with some of the things he did, whether it’s some of the altercations we had or whatever else, it was ultimately really good for the sport because it let everybody know that it wasn’t so vanilla. To me, that’s one of the things that he’ll always be remembered for, that he was extremely outspoken, and I think we need that even now. … You’ve got to have that person that will stand up and say the things nobody wants to hear or know about. That’s what he was really good at.”

RIchard Childress Racing crew chief Todd Berrier
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Todd Berrier: ‘Business as usual,’ crown jewels and the $1M wager

The Monday after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash at Daytona, Todd Berrier, Gil Martin and Kevin Harvick were in Atlanta for testing. Berrier was just starting as a crew chief with Richard Childress Racing’s fledgling Busch Series operation, and 2001 marked his first season paired with Harvick on the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Their participation in the test so soon after the tragedy wasn’t a callous calculation on such a somber day-after. Instead, Berrier says now, that original plan stuck because they were unsure how else to proceed amid the initial shock.

“We went after it as business as usual because we didn’t know what else to do,” Berrier said. “We knew we weren’t going to hear from Richard for a couple of days, and we just had to go do business as usual.”

Harvick’s schedule was already packed for the year, with a spate of testing, a full Busch Series slate and the intent of adding a limited Cup Series audition. Now, the 25-year-old was adding a full, parallel campaign for the balance of the Cup Series season.

“I mean, we weren’t even sure if we were gonna go racing the next day, you know what I mean?” Berrier says now. “So it was a lot handed to Kevin that wasn’t planned. Honestly, I think a lot of that was the circumstances were horrible, and at the same time, there was a lot put on his plate, but I think he was so busy because of that it probably helped enable us more than anything else. I mean, we didn’t have time to dwell on what we were doing right or wrong. … It was just a matter of, we’ve got to really dig deep, press and make this happen.”

Pressing through led Harvick to victories in both series and a championship in what’s now the Xfinity Series with Berrier atop the pit box. By then, Berrier was already a veteran at RCR as a crew chief for the organization’s early Truck Series effort. That program laid the foundation for what Childress’ Xfinity operation would become, with Harvick as its cornerstone.

Their Busch Series championship together eventually led to a Cup Series pairing early in the 2003 season. With Harvick’s gobs of talent behind the wheel, Berrier said that the crew side had to hold its own high standards to match their driver’s.

“Kevin was great, right? I mean, he was phenomenal with car control and his abilities and things like that,” Berrier says. “And I don’t think that anybody would tell you any different than all you can really do as a team is screw it up for someone as good as he is.”

Besides the talent, there was also Harvick’s competitive and sometimes fiery nature. Berrier was early in his Cup Series tenure with the No. 29 team when Harvick squared off against nails-tough Ricky Rudd at Richmond Raceway after a late-race incident.

MORE: NASCAR Classics, Richmond 2003

Managing that, Berrier said, had its own challenges.

“I’m sure there are definitely times that we felt like we had to intervene like, ‘OK here, let’s don’t lose sight of the task at hand trying to make sure you stand your ground.’ ” Berrier says. “But you’re not going to back him in a corner, right? I mean, he’s fight or flight, so you’re not going to back him in a corner. So a lot of times that you’d have some altercation or something, I mean at the end of the day, it didn’t matter if he was going against, I don’t care – Big Show — he don’t care. When he’s ready to dang make it right with somebody that’s done him wrong or whatever, I don’t think it would matter to him if they were 500 pounds and 8 foot tall. So at the end of the day, he’s not scared of nothing, for sure.”

Their eight Cup Series victories together included some of Harvick’s most prestigious. The first and last of those wins were bookend crown jewels – the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2003 and Harvick’s thrilling Daytona 500 triumph in 2007.

“We had a streak of success there that was tied together, and that’s when you feel like you were hitting on all eight (cylinders),” Berrier says. “But honestly, man, what we get paid to do is win, and when we don’t do that, we fail. So I don’t know. You look around in Victory Lane pictures, you’re gonna be hard-pressed to find me. I don’t care anything about that. I think that’s when we finally did our job that one event. You know, the rest of the time we completely screwed it up. For him, I know the wins are special, the trophies are cool, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. I just feel like we’re probably letting down on a lot of them that he could have had.”

Berrier was with Harvick for those monumental wins, but he was also there for other life-changing moments. Berrier’s parents were close family friends with the parents of DeLana Linville, and he said he was among the first to help introduce Harvick to his future wife.

But Harvick’s life changed in a hurry that Monday at the Atlanta test. Hamlin, his first Cup Series crew chief, recalled that in Harvick’s earlier days at RCR, he “couldn’t even make a truck payment. Next thing you know, he’s got more money than he knows what to do with.” During a break in test runs, Berrier and Martin tried to educate their driver about his new financial bracket. It led to a friendly wager on a napkin.

“So Gil and I are really being really hard on Kevin saying, ‘Look, save your money. Whatever you do, bank money, and don’t buy a bunch of crap. Let’s be smart, save as much money as you can, and get out of this. Don’t ever be in a spot. Don’t let this happen to you.’ I mean, obviously, you’re not in the best of spirits through all this, right?

“So anyway, Kevin was like, ‘OK well, 10 years from today, I’ll be retired. Zero percent chance that I will not be retired by then.’ Me and Gil are like, ‘You’re completely full of crap, dude. It’s impossible.’ He said, ‘Well, here’s the deal. If I’m not retired …’ and I said, ‘I’ll bet you a million bucks that you won’t be retired 10 years from today.’ And he said, ‘Well, the only reason I won’t retire 10 years from now is I’m making so much money, I can’t afford to retire.’ So, as it turns out, Gil and I didn’t have to pay him, and as it turns out, he lost the bet.”

Berrier, now 53, remains involved in the sport in the competition department at Joe Gibbs Racing. He says he maintains a close friendship with his former driver, who is now more than a decade past his intended retirement timeline – a fact that Berrier resists the temptation to bring up.

“Oh no, I don’t have to remind him,” Berrier says. “He knows it.”

Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Rodney Childers
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Rodney Childers: ‘When you’re having fun, time flies by in a hurry’

“Some of those times are a little odd,” Rodney Childers can say now, looking back at the birth of his time working with Kevin Harvick. Childers was a mainstay in the final years of Michael Waltrip Racing, but there was mutual interest from both driver and crew chief in going a new direction together.

Much of that maneuvering and negotiation went on in private meetings, but as one long day started to wind down at Dover Motor Speedway during the 2013 season, the secret started to slip out.

“Kevin’s like, ‘you want to go get some ice cream?’ ” Childers recalled. “So here we are, me and DeLana and Kevin on his golf cart, going out to get ice cream out in front of the speedway, and a few people saw us, so the rumors started then.”

That early bonding over freezing-cold cones led to sharing some of their greatest successes in racing and forming one of the longest-running driver-crew chief teams in recent Cup Series memory. The two were an electric pairing from the get-go at Stewart-Haas Racing, winning the Cup title in their first season together and collecting 37 wins over the course of their partnership.

RELATED: All of Kevin Harvick’s Cup Series wins

Even with the potential, Childers admits he had reservations about making the leap back in 2013. One factor was his loyalty to the Waltrip organization, where he scored wins early on with David Reutimann and later with Brian Vickers in that final season. The other hesitation stemmed from Harvick’s reputation. Sure, Childers said, “I felt like he was one of the better guys in the whole garage,” noting his knack for maximizing his equipment and avoiding unforced errors, but he also needed a personal commitment from Harvick before agreeing to a deal.

“I think the part that did scare me was the other side of it, the temper and all the things that you’ve seen being on other teams and yelling and screaming on the radio and all that,” Childers says with his customary laid-back drawl. “We had a lot of conversations about that stuff. It’s crazy how many conversations. We talked about that stuff more than we talked about anything. You know, it finally came down to him making a promise that he wasn’t gonna act that way anymore. And that if I would do it, then he would keep his promise.

“So it was really cool to see him change that much, honestly, and to keep that promise, act the way they did, and to be a leader. I think some of that was just the change in environment, getting out of what he was accustomed to and knowing that he needed to be a leader, not just a driver. He was the leader that we needed.”

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The pairing found a spark before the season ever started. At an organizational test at Charlotte Motor Speedway that December, Childers had outfitted an old No. 39 chassis with new suspension, new geometry and other set-up features based on his best instincts. “Just stupid fast,” is how Childers describes that car now, and it foretold the success that was to come as the No. 4 team took root.

“Throughout that process of hiring people, it seemed like everybody wanted to be involved in it,” Childers says. “Everybody wanted to win races with Kevin and win a championship, and it’s like every single person you hired, you would realize more and more that this was going to be something special.”

Winning in their second race under the SHR banner with a dominant performance at Phoenix served notice to the rest of the field that there would be no first-year jitters for either Harvick or Childers. Their championship came early in their tenure, with Harvick securing the first Cup Series title of the playoffs’ elimination era by winning the last two races of the year. Multiple wins came in nearly every season that followed, running Harvick’s impressive total to an even 60 Cup Series victories.

MORE: NASCAR Classics, Homestead-Miami 2014

The chemistry the two developed, Childers said, helped to foster the on-track success, but the veteran crew chief also noted his driver’s detail-oriented approach — down to noticing seams or cracks in the asphalt of each track and noting how the car reacted to each nuance.

“I think it depends on what side of it you were on,” Childers says. “If you were a competitor, you know how much grit he had, racing against him and all those things. But the people that have worked on teams with him see him completely different. We see him as just how good of a race car driver he is, and the reason he was good was because he worked hard.”

The bonds of their work relationship, the on-track performance and their friendship have kept them together. Only Chase Elliott’s current combo with crew chief Alan Gustafson, a pairing that began in 2016, comes close to matching their decade-long run.

Childers insists there’s no secret ingredient to their staying power.

“I think the biggest thing is, we’ve had a lot of fun. When you’re having fun, time flies by in a hurry. I think the other thing is just that we’ve had the same goals from the beginning, we’ve had the same mindset from the beginning. The last couple years with the new car has been difficult on us as a team, but our goals haven’t changed, and the things that we want to do hasn’t changed. … It’s really just that we have fun, we communicate really well, we talk almost every single day, and we’re always talking about what we can do better.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been 10 years. It seems like it’s been three or four is how fast it’s all went by, but it’s really hard to be unhappy when you’re winning nearly 10 races like we did in 2018, 2020. We were always in contention all the time, and the whole garage looked up to us as one of the best teams. It’s pretty easy to keep it going when it’s like that.”

This Sunday at Phoenix, that chapter will close. Childers said that Harvick had flirted with retirement a few years earlier, with the lure of the broadcast booth making its first overtures. This offseason, during what Childers called “quiet time” working on their recreational late model program, those transitional talks became more serious.

Through the process of making farewell tour plans, Harvick took special care to keep Childers abreast of his final decision and the timing.

“I think he knows what he means to me, and I’ve always been a little of an emotional person. You can see that in every race that we win,” Childers said. “But I think he knew that it was gonna be extremely tough on me all year this year, and he’s definitely respected that.”

The No. 4 team will continue next year, with Childers teaming up with Josh Berry, another rough-hewn veteran racer with a brilliant grassroots pedigree that he brought to his Xfinity Series career. Harvick will take his meticulous manner to FOX Sports’ broadcast team, hanging up his Cup Series driving gloves after Sunday’s season finale.

What Harvick leaves behind is a remarkable legacy with Hall of Fame worth. For Childers, that legacy has a more personal impact.

“I think everybody knew going into the 2014 season that I was a racer through and through, and I’ve worked really hard my whole life and maybe not ever got the right opportunity,” Childers says. “But the reality of it is, I’d won three races as a crew chief, and now I’ve won 40. So, to say that has been life-changing is an understatement. It’s a 4 team legacy, but it’s something that will stand out for me the rest of my life. To have an opportunity to win big races with him, Brickyard 400s back-to-back, Southern 500, just all those different things, it’s stuff you’ll never forget.

“Then the other side of it is, it will also change my life going forward in the garage of different drivers and different teams and different crew members that would want to work for me, that maybe they wouldn’t have wanted to work for me in 2012. So I think it’s been life-changing for sure, and the cool thing I think with him is, I don’t think it’ll ever change. I see the friendships that he has with Todd Berrier and Gil Martin and all the people that have crew chiefed for him, and it’s never changed. He still talks to them all the time, and so I’m hoping it stays that way for us.”

Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Rodney Childers with Kevin Harvick and the 2014 championship trophy
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