Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson skipped work Friday following the birth of his second daughter.
Chandra Johnson gave birth at 2:02 a.m. Friday at a Charlotte, N.C., hospital and the couple named their new arrival Lydia Norriss. She weighed 5 pounds, 10 ounces, was 19 inches long and joins big sister Genevieve Marie.
While mother and baby were fine, they were expected to remain in the hospital overnight so Johnson skipped practice and qualifying at Richmond International Raceway. Regan Smith drove the No. 48 Chevrolet in his place and prepared it for Saturday night’s race.
"We did talk about (Johnson) not attending the race," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "It would have had to have been if there was some form of complication or if the baby came later today than we had anticipated. Since she came at a reasonable hour, and Jimmie is going to be able to take the day off, he feels like he’s going to be well rested and able to come out here and perform the way he needs to tomorrow night."
Smith participated in a recent test at RIR with the Hendrick Motorsports team and turned a few laps in the No. 48, so he’s familiar with the car. It made the decision to have Johnson remain in Charlotte with his family Friday an easy one, Knaus said.
"He really wanted to be here," Knaus said. "After talking it over with him last night . it made a lot more sense for him to take the day off, get some rest, spend some time with Chani. That way when he shows up here tomorrow night, he was actually fresh and ready to go instead of sleep deprived and wanting to be with his kid."
Johnson is the current Sprint Cup Series points leader heading into the final race of the "regular season." The field will be reset after Saturday night and as it currently stands, Johnson would be tied for second with Kyle Busch and trailing Matt Kenseth by three points.
The team was prepared for every scenario and would have used Smith at the Chase opener at Chicago next week if necessary.
"It’s nice to know we don’t have to worry about. But if it would have crept up, we would have dealt with it. We would have been OK," Knaus said.