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Johnson readies back-up plan as baby nears

August 31, 2013, Kenny Bruce,

Smith, Buescher could step in to drive No. 48

HAMPTON, Ga. -- There’s been no jetting back and forth; no Friday morning arrivals this time around as Jimmie Johnson and wife Chandra await the birth of the couple’s second child.
But Johnson, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is still keeping his cell phone close by as he and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team prepare for a run at a sixth Cup Series title.
“It’s getting close,” Johnson, 37, said Friday after qualifying 10th for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I’m really just going off my wife’s pulse on it all and she’s pretty calm and relaxed about it.”


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The due date for the Johnsons’ second child falls on the weekend of the opening race of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, slated for Sept. 13-15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
“We’ve had weekly doctor check-ups and everything is going great and it looks like we don’t have anything to worry about right away, although I’d love for something to happen this weekend or next weekend,” he said. “But everything is great. Mom is healthy and baby is healthy and we’re just kind of waiting for when number two decides to come out.”
Prior to the birth of the couple’s first child, Johnson spent as much time as possible with his wife at home, often delaying his departure to the track until Friday mornings when the schedule allowed. Daughter Genevieve (Evie) was born July 7, 2010 -- a Wednesday.
Such scheduling hasn’t been necessary this time, although Johnson said the team is prepared in case he has to make an unexpected departure.
A back-up plan he described as “kind of convoluted” would see either NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith or Camping World Truck Series driver James Buescher fill in for the team should the need arise. Both the Nationwide and Truck series will be competing at Chicagoland the same weekend as the Cup event.
Smith tested the No. 48 car at Richmond recently in case he is asked to step in.
As the points leader and with a spot in the Chase already secured, Johnson said it’s been “easy” to map potential plans of action. But Chicago, the opening Chase race, is when “it gets kind of tricky,” he said.
Fortunately, he said, he has an understanding wife.
“There is no one more focused and committed on the No. 48 winning a championship than Chani, and she is like, ‘You need to be in that race car and do your job,’” he said. “So, that’s letting me sleep well. And I clearly want to be there for the birth of our second daughter.”



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