AUBURN — For years, we read about Billy Childs (Sr. and Jr.) and their exploits on the ovals. Then it was Jimmy, Bill Sr.’s son, who stole the headlines as he tore up the Mini Stock ranks at Oxford. Last year, we watched as Josh Childs claimed the Street Stock crown before moving to Super Late Models.

Now, a new member of central Maine’s most prolific racing family is ready for his moment in the sun. Cody Childs, the 23-year-old son of Conrad and Kerrie Childs, is taking Oxford’s Rebel class by storm in just his first full season of competition.

“I didn’t even really plan to be doing this right now,” Childs said. “My father was going to drive this car last year, but his back condition won’t allow it. He was going to sell the car, but last July he asked me if I had any interest in driving it. I told him I did, and we ended up winning a feature our third time out.”

Beating four-cylinder veteran Dustin Salley by inches at the line is quite a feat. Salley is one of the real gurus of front-wheel-drive oval race cars, and has both the driving skills and mechanical knowledge of a champion. In 2016, Childs has won six races in 11 starts and is battling Salley for the Rebel title.

“I made the decision during the offseason to take this program to a higher level,” Childs said. “So I worked hard on building relationships with marketing partners and added some new crew members.

“We work on the car a lot now since weekly maintenance is so critical to on-track success. I think all that planning and hard work is paying off at this point.”

Oxford’s Runnin’ Rebel division was created in 1999 as part of the Acceleration Series program. Bill Ryan Jr.’s original intent was to not only add another night of revenue to his facility, but also to have an affordable entry-level program for people who wanted to try racing for themselves.

As it turned out, those Rebel and Outlaw classes have cultivated more talent for the future than anyone could have ever hoped. The list of active racers today who got their start in those classes is a long one. And the talent level in today’s version of the Rebels is off the charts.

“When you go up against guys like Dustin, Shaun Hinkley and Cody White every week, it takes a good car and a plan to beat them,” Childs said. “There are a ton of good drivers and cars now. That’s why we work hard on this car and take the program so seriously. Sure, it’s hobby-level racing on a Wednesday night. Yet we all want to perform well, so we put a lot of effort into it. I’m very pleased with our results this year.”

This glorious season was not without its perils. A few weeks ago, Childs was caught up in an early wreck and nearly destroyed his car completely. It took a major effort to get it put back together.

“At first, we thought the car was toast,” Childs said. “It was bent pretty badly, but we were able to pull it back into shape and get it back to square. It took us a little while, but we got it right and now it feels just like it did before the wreck. I think we can pull off a couple more wins with it now.”

As is the case with any race team, whether it competes on Wednesday or Saturday nights, it takes a lot of help to find success. Childs is fortunate to have a full complement of crew members he says are fully dedicated to his program.

Some weren’t even really race fans at first, yet got hooked on racing once they started attending the races and learning some valuable skills in the shop.

“My father works very hard for me doing the chassis setups and other important tasks,” Childs said. “He’s really good at it and he is without question the most important figure behind me. I also have Dakota Carroll, Dylan Bennett, Cody Russell, Reid O’Hara, Jimmy May, my brother Cayden, Trevor Vallee and Garrett Weldon on board. There are a lot of guys putting in time for us and making this program work. 

“I am also fortunate to have the support of my mother, sisters, and my girlfriend, Carlie Robinson. I couldn’t do any of this without their help. I also have to mention my partners, Sapphire Nightclub & Event Center, Small Wonders Child Care, Hairem Salon & Barber Shop, Blais Barber Shop, and of course, my dad’s company, A-Plus Auto here in Auburn. I appreciate what those folks do for us.”

Childs also got some valuable help recently from Street Stock racer Calvin Rose Jr., of Turner. The former Mini Stock standout offered to assist with some fine-tuning, and his help was priceless.

“We were real close on our setup, but the car was still a little loose in the apex of the corner,” Childs said. “The rear end wanted to kick out, so Calvin asked if he could have a look at it. He checked the tire stagger (difference in circumference from right side to left), and sure enough, it was off.

“He got it fixed in between the qualifying heat and the feature. We went out and ran around everybody on the outside to win that night. I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to help us out like that.”

When this racing season has faded into memory, Childs will look back with a smile, no matter the outcome. His next step is yet to be determined; it will either be in an Outlaw or a Street Stock. This young man has shown the same natural talent several of his relatives had in the past, and then some.

No matter where he lands, he’ll be one to keep an eye on.

For now, he’s focused on the remaining races in the 2016 Rebel season. The goal is clear: win the title.

“Dustin has just been so incredibly consistent this year,” Childs said. “He hasn’t finished outside the top five, and that’s pretty hard to beat. I know if I can just hang in there and win that title, I will have certainly earned it. I’m excited about what lies ahead, but we have more wins to chase right now.”

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