Spire Motorsports well on its way to building “the best team we can”

Sportem
Sportem
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Haley’s improbable victory at Daytona came when his No. 77 team elected not to pit while the remaining lead lap cars did, betting the rain would come and the race may not restart.

They were right. On that day, Spire was more lucky than good, but slowly and patiently it has tried to expand and develop into an organization that relies more on the latter than the former.

Another piece of that development came Tuesday when Spire hired veteran crew chief Rodney Childers to take over its No. 7 team with driver Corey LaJoie beginning in 2025.

Childers is the winningest active crew chief in the Cup garage (40 victories) and won the 2014 series title and 37 races with recently retired driver Kevin Harvick.

The recent decision by Stewart-Haas Racing’s co-owners Gene Haas and Tony Stewart to shutter their four-car Cup operation at season’s end, suddenly made a wealth of talented drivers, crew chiefs and team members available for hire.

When that happened, Spire Motorsports president Doug Duchardt said Childers was “on the top of our list to pursue.”

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“Obviously getting someone of Rodney’s caliber at Spire Motorsports makes us better as soon as he walks through the door,” he said. “Rodney is going to bring a leadership and experience that will help us in the future.

“I say this a lot, Rodney knows how to make race cars go fast. We all know that, but really, it’s the intangibles he brings as a leader for his peers, for his team and also for the drivers, not just of the Cup team, but also a resource for the drivers on the Truck side as well.”

In 2019, Spire was fielding one full-time Cup team utilizing a variety of drivers, and outside of Haley’s surprise win, was getting very little in terms of results on the track.

By next season, Spire will have a three-driver Cup lineup of LaJoie, Michael McDowell and Carson Hocevar as well as continuing to field multiple Truck teams as well.

Childers’ hire also allows LaJoie’s current crew chief Ryan Sparks – who has held the dual role of crew chief and the organization’s competition director – to focus more on the company-wide performance efforts.

“Ryan’s been carrying on his shoulders the crew chief role on the No. 7 and the competition director role because as we grew so quickly, he just had to take both of those,” Duchardt said.

“When we saw (Childers become available), we needed to take it and allow Ryan to focus on the competition director job. I appreciate the fact that Ryan was willing to step off the box and take that role because he knew that we’d be better getting a crew chief of Rodney’s caliber.

“It just helps the whole team.”

Duchardt and Childers both believe Spire isn’t that far off from the other multi-car teams in the Cup garage but in the age of the Next Gen car, small gains can make big improvements.

“That next jump (in performance) could be a little bit of potential. With the cars, it can be a little bit of just finishing where we’ve been running. It could be a little bit of everything to get us to move up the grid,” Duchardt said.

“I think we’re just going to dedicate ourselves to try to build the best team we can and have Corey come in and embrace the fact that we’ve working on every area to get better. Hopefully, that’s going to result in getting to be where we want to be.”

Childers – who has worked for a vast array of teams in NASCAR in different stages of development – has eagerly embraced the challenge.

“It’s just like for me having to go back to that stuff and work hard and look at every little single detail – like when we started the No. 4 team (at SHR) – looking at every piece and part within the shop. How do we make everything better from top to bottom?” he said.

“To me, that’s a good thing. I want to work on those things. I want to stay busy. I want to make a difference. I’ve been through a lot of different situations over 21 years, having to start two different teams from scratch and not have anything.

“Having that experience is key at this point to go and to make a difference, to try to be more competitive every single week and get Corey to Victory Lane.”

Childers’ hire should be a giant step forward for Spire to attain that goal – and many other others.

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