Rodden ready to help ‘shift the narrative’ at RCR

Keith Rodden was named the interim competition director at Richard Childress Racing this week in a move he was even surprised by.

“In this business, everybody understands that it’s performance-based and things are going to change,” Rodden told RACER. “So, something had to happen, and that’s what transpired. Andy [Petree] decided to retire, and with Richard giving me the nod to move into the role, it was a little bit unexpected. But I’m definitely excited to get started.”

Petree retired effective immediately on Wednesday. A longtime Richard Childress Racing member, he had led the competition team as executive vice president.


The midseason departure moves Rodden into a more significant role within the organization than he previously held. Rodden’s NASCAR resume includes being a race engineer and crew chief, most recently guiding Austin Dillon and the No. 3 team. He worked with Dillon in 2023 and through the first seven races of this season.

As interim competition director, Rodden understands it will be all about people.

“It’s giving guidance to people, it’s listening to people, hearing what they have to say about what can make things better and their area better,” Rodden said. “I’ve always tried to listen to everybody. I feel like I’ve always had pretty good relationships with everyone I’ve worked with, and I genuinely care about them and their families and what’s going on in their lives. So, you have that aspect, and then, at the same time, it’s the work aspect.

“These race teams are filled with brilliant people, and we need to be able to take their feedback and apply it to whether you’re bolting a car together, how you’re finishing a panel, or what type of setup you’re running. There are many different things and many different people who have great ideas and need to be heard. At the end of the day, it’s doing that and ensuring the drivers have everything they need with fast race cars to succeed.”

Rodden has been at Richard Childress Racing for just over a year. But he quickly came to see how dedicated Childress and his employees are, and the organization’s heritage. It feels family-oriented and small, which can be a good thing when it comes to being nimble and reacting quickly or making changes.

“It’s really what needs to happen here to shift the narrative a little bit and get everything going,” Rodden admitted. “I’ve always tried to make it where I felt like I was responsible for how the performance was already, and now I really am the guy it all hangs on. The way Richard put it, he was like, ‘Hey, you’re in charge.’ The buck has to stop with somebody, so it’s going to be me for a little bit, and we’ll see how it goes.”

There is no reason for Rodden to shy away from the current competitive state of the organization. Childress has not won since June last year, when Kyle Busch won his third Cup Series race in St. Louis. However, he went on to finish 14th in the championship standings. Dillon did not make the postseason.

The way things are currently trending, both Childress drivers are in danger of not making the 2024 postseason. Busch and Dillon have combined for seven top-10 finishes and two top-five finishes heading into Nashville Superspeedway (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET). Busch is 17th in the championship standings and Dillon sits 32nd.

Both teams have battled poor execution, speed, and being on the wrong end of racing circumstances. And there have been missed opportunities when showing flashes of strength.

“I look back at (St. Louis) and Sonoma and Iowa and I thought we had cars that could definitely run in the top 10,” Rodden said. “At Sonoma, we had three cars that should have run in the top 10 or 12 and we had nothing to show for it. In St. Louis, (Dillon) finished sixth, and honestly, they may have been a little better than that. So, right there, you identify that you need to finish where you run. Unfortunately, Kyle had an incident at St. Louis and then another at the end of the race in Sonoma, and then at Iowa, we had a parts malfunction. Right there, you’re in such a hole not finishing where you’re running.

“Then we go to Loudon and we’re just not good. Both of our cars were slow and did not handle well. It makes all the other finishes look like that’s where you’ve been when it’s really not. Yes that’s where we were at Loudon, but we’ve had fairly respectable cars.”

A big agenda piece for Rodden in his new role is for the teams to have top 10 cars that finish inside the top 10. Doing so means having cars in one piece to massage on and a notebook to strengthen.

“And then,” Rodden said, “start working toward bringing top seven, top five, top three speed to put ourselves to win.”

Story originally appeared on Racer