This NASCAR season has been a rollercoaster for Rodney Childers

But the pressure is largely off now that most of the team is spoken for

To call this summer bittersweet for Rodney Childers would be a massive understatement.

On one hand, many of the crew members he has worked alongside or shepherded over the past 15 years will end up at different places next season and beyond. It’s a testament to the No. 4 team that Childers built from the ground up at Stewart-Haas Racing.

This is his extended family and the realization that they are not going to race together anymore after November has started to settle in.

It hurts.

“I have really struggled with it,” Childers told Sportsnaut on Friday in Downtown Chicago. “I’ve cried at least once every week because it’s hard for me to picture racing without them if that makes any sense at all. Like, I’ve raced with Cheddar (Robert Smith) and all these guys, the same car chief and shop foreman.

“Dax (Gerringer, lead engineer) has been with me since (Michael Waltrip Racing) so just so many good people.”

So, the other hand is that Childers built a unit that has a tremendous amount of value to the industry and he deserves the credit for putting them together.

And then there’s Josh Berry, who Childers vowed would not fail under his watch, and backed it up by putting the 33-year-old in a position to succeed to the point where he just signed a new multiyear agreement with Wood Brothers Racing.

When Berry gathered the No. 4 team around the shop to share the news earlier in the week, Childers struggled to keep it together then too.

“The team took turns and Cheddar looked at me and said, ‘what do you got, Rodney,’ and I kept it together and was like ‘yep, all good, saving it for another day.’

He wanted to cry then too.

You have to understand that Childers had the weight of the world, or at least this team on his shoulders this season, recognizing that the company might downsize or shutter altogether. He was responsible for making sure Berry flourished and that one of the most dominant teams of the past decade remained strong even after the departure of Kevin Harvick.

“Josh has been outstanding and if nothing else, I’m just really proud that everyone is starting to see that now,” Childers said. “There were a lot of people who doubted if he was a Cup driver at the start of the year and I don’t think anyone questions that anymore.

“I had that on my shoulders. I felt like it was up to me to make sure he could prove everyone wrong and now I don’t feel like we have to prove anything to anyone now. We can just go race and try to get him to Victory Lane.”

Childers says he feels confident about their chances to reach victory lane before the end of the season. And based on the past two months, it’s more than just talk as they very well could have won either Iowa or New Hampshire.

They contended early last week at Nashville but Childers says he just didn’t anticipate needing to free the car as much as it required. The pit crew have remained solid through their unexpected free agency too.

“I think the pit crew are spoken for in different areas and different teams and they’ve just been completely incredible, with their attitudes and what they’re doing every week,” Childers added. “Everyone has been working so hard, the engineers and the core group are still here and working towards that goal.

“It’s just a matter of what happens in body hanging and finished fab and getting cars wrapped. I understand the guy that prints all of our decals is leaving so if he’s not there, I don’t know who is printing them.”

He laughed and said it might be him.

“Like I said, overall, our core group has been outstanding,” Childers said. “We’ve all been extremely open and honest. We meet every Tuesday and then we’re sending messages to each other every night about all the opportunities that are out there and the places we’ve been and what those conversations were like.

“Really, I think as we go through the summer now, it can’t get any worse, right?”

All that remains is what Childers, Cheddar, Gerringer and the No. 4 team have done for a decade and that’s to go win races before this bittersweet season comes to an end.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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