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Vickers’ Crew Chief To Defect To Stewart-Haas

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 23 2013

Brian Vickers will lose his crew chief next year. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Mark Martin said Friday Michael Waltrip Racing’s announcement 10 days ago that Brian Vickers would drive the No. 55 full time in 2014 opened the door for him to join Stewart-Haas Racing for the season’s remainder, but Martin’s move won’t provide Vickers with the benefits he expected.

Instead of getting a head start on the 2014 season, Vickers is going to be working with a lame duck crew chief. Rodney Childers confirmed Friday he would leave MWR and join Stewart-Haas Racing to become Kevin Harvick’s crew chief next year.

This year, Vickers, Martin and Waltrip shared driving duties in the No. 55 Toyota with Childers as the team’s crew chief. When Vickers’ signed his two-year deal with MWR he envisioned a title run with long-time friend Childers. However, on Thursday Childers told Waltrip he was leaving MWR and he informed team members of his decision Friday morning.

“Going to SHR and working with Harvick is an opportunity that not many people will ever get, and I was afraid that, if I didn’t take it, I would regret it the rest of my life, and that’s just not something I wanted to do,” Childers told Performance Racing Network’s Steve Richards in an exclusive interview on Friday.

Childers’ revelation Friday made it a disappointing day for MWR and the crewmen he has worked with for five years. He also regretted that Vickers learned of his decision before he had the opportunity to tell him.

“The part with Brian was probably the hardest part, even though I didn’t get to tell him face to face,” Childers said. “We had everything planned out to where we could talk last night and then it got to him before I actually got to talk to him. So that part wasn’t good. It’s hard on both of us. We’ve known each other for a long time and I think after a while it will blow over, and, hopefully, we’ll remain friends like we’ve been our whole lives.”

Childers elected to sign a one-year contract last year instead of a long-term deal, Martin said, “because he wanted to wait to see what transpired after our year together.”

“He wanted to work with me and Brian (Vickers) and Michael (Waltrip) in 2013 and wait and see what 2014 brought,” Martin continued.

Martin Truex Jr. admitted it would be difficult to replace Childers.

“He’s very, very good at what he does,” Truex Jr. said. “He’s been a big part of Michael Waltrip Racing. He was there long before I was. He’s very smart. I really enjoyed my time there working with him because we did work very closely together with all of our teams. He brought a ton to the table, so it’s going to be hard to replace him, especially this late in the season. He’s definitely a special talent.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 23 2013
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