MIAMI, FL :: Rodney Childers was always going to win championships in NASCAR.

At least, that was the opinion of those who knew him as a teenager before he was transformed into the mechanical architect behind Kevin Harvick and his freshly-minted Sprint Cup Series championship at Stewart-Haas Racing.

His supporters never doubted Childers or his talents but believed it would be his driving prowess that would place him atop the mountain rather than doing it as a crew chief.

Childers got his first big break in racing by helping five-time Pro Cup champion Clay Rogers set up his go-kart by the request of his father, Keith. In time, Childers became the de-facto crew chief for Rogers’ karting operation.

Grateful for the expertise and success, the elder Rogers bought Childers his first Late Model Stock Car, presenting him yet another challenge to overcome as both a driver and an engineer. At first, Childers struggled to adapt to the heavier machine, competing weekly at Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, N.C.

“I was in way over my head and had no idea what I was doing,” Childers recalled on Sunday night during his championship press conference at Homestead Miami Speedway. “I went to seven races that first year and completely sucked at all of them.

“And then over the winter, I took the whole car apart and did everything the way I wanted to and I went to the first race, sat on the pole and led every lap.”

During the 1998 season at Tri-County, Childers won seven times in 19 starts and posted 14 top-5s while also making sporadic stars in Pro Cup and the NASCAR All Pro Super Series. Despite the sporadic success, Childers never found the funding necessary to take his career to the next level and made only one start in the Nationwide Series, back in 2000, and finished last after an early incident.

Fortunately for him, the Rogers were so impressed with his abilities as a mechanic that they kept him employed in racing as the visionary behind much of their early success in the Pro Cup Series.

“So that one year was the year that I realized that I really didn’t need to drive,” Childers said. “I enjoy watching him win as much as I like winning myself. If it wasn’t for that one person that ever told me, hey, I want you to crew chief for my son, I wouldn’t be doing this right now.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has known Childers for more than 20 years and believes he would have enjoyed just as much success as a Sprint Cup driver as he’s obtained as an elite-level engineer.

“He raced every weekend at Tri-County and he won every single race he ever drove down there, it seemed like,” Earnhardt said earlier this season at Darlington. “It turns out he might have been as good of a driver as he is a crew chief.”

After winning his first championship as a crew chief with Harvick, Earnhardt and the rest of the Sprint Cup garage is likely wishing he would give that driving deal a second-chance.