By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
RICHMOND, Va. -- It wasn't personal. It was strictly business.
After crew chief Rodney Childers confirmed two weeks ago that he was leaving Michael Waltrip Racing for Stewart-Haas next year, team owner Michael Waltrip opted to relieve Childers of his duties on the No. 55 Toyota driven by Brian Vickers, rather than allowing him to finish out the season.
"Rodney and I are buddies, and he has been a tremendous asset at Michael Waltrip Racing, but we are going to have meetings and build cars and put processes in place that we think will help us win a championship in 2014," Waltrip told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at Richmond International Raceway.
"When he said he was going to leave MWR ... that is just business. It's our information to protect and we felt like that was a smart way to protect it. I know he understands. In this world we live in... we've had some very pleasant texts over the last couple weeks about where he is and where we are and how that situation was handled.
"No one did anything mean ... it's just business."
Director of competition Scott Miller is serving as interim crew chief for Vickers as MWR searches for Childers' replacement. Waltrip said MWR has made progress toward that end but didn't have anything specific to report.
Jeff Gordon on the outside of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cutoff line entering the final regular-season race at Richmond?
Joey Logano relatively comfortable in eighth place with a victory as a safety net?
Greg Biffle, another driver on the Chase bubble, said the vagaries of the Chase battle haven't surprised him.
"Nobody's made it in that's a surprise to me, because there are so many good drivers," said Biffle, who is ninth in the Cup standings, 16 points ahead of Jeff Gordon in 11th.
"Kasey Kahne (who has clinched at least a wild card spot), you can't say that he's a surprise. You can't say that Martin Truex is a surprise.
"I could list them all. None of them are surprises to me. Is it a surprise that those other guys are out? Maybe. But somebody has to be, you know. ... A lot has to come down to luck, what happened on the race track and how your season went so far."
WHERE'S THAT SWITCH?
Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team has suffered through a litany of major and minor problems in the last two months -- from blown engines to blown tires to blown pit stops.
In the three races leading up to the regular-season finale at Richmond, Johnson finished 40th, 36th and 28th, hardly characteristic of the five-time champion.
Nevertheless, fellow Chase competitor Kyle Busch fully expects Johnson to be a championship contender once the 10-race playoff starts.
"There's a switch somewhere over at Hendrick Motorsports they'll flip next week, and they'll be just fine in Chicago (where the Chase opens)," Busch said. "I guarantee it."