People forget that before he was the championship-winning crew chief with Kevin Harvick at Stewart-Haas Racing that Rodney Childers was a Late Model Stock competitor himself at Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina.
So, when paint schemes started to arrive for the second CARS Tour Throwback 276 at Hickory Motor Speedway, two-time Martinsville 300 winner Tommy Lemons Jr. wanted to pay homage to a classic Late Model driver and not someone from NASCAR national touring.
Hailing from Troy, North Carolina, Lemons wanted to recognize a local driver and allow fans to remember that Childers is still a short track guy at heart.
“We just wanted to throw back to someone who ran Late Models and was from our area,” Lemons said. “Rodney is a guy that doesn’t get the spotlight enough for what he did in Late Models.”
Thus, for the retro race at the Birthplace of the NASCAR stars, Lemons will drive a No. 54 identical to the one Childers made his debut in back in 1997.
“I can’t believe it,” Childers said. “I never would have thought that anyone would ever want to do one of my Late Models or anything I had anything to do with. It brings back so many memories and how far we’ve come in all these years.
“I had a guy that wanted to get me into a Late Model back in 1997 and we ran about six or seven races before we tore it up at Tri-County Motor Speedway. We built another one with Clay Rogers and became a crew chief for him. Together we won about 18 races and a championship the next year.”
To his point, most fans know him for his 14-year career on top of the pit box at the highest level, but he spent several seasons as a driver and crew chief in the All-Pro Series and Pro Cup Series, the predecessor to what is now CARS Tour.
Lemons made his day with the paint scheme reveal, but knows there is still one more job to be done.
“We got some smiles with this one,” Lemons said. But we can get some more if we park it in Victory Lane.”
The complete paint scheme reveal, in which CARS Tour television partner Pit Row TV traveled to Stewart-Haas to uncover the car with Childers, can be viewed below.