Defending champ has baby backup plan
Johnson said on Friday at Pocono Raceway that Almirola will be at the next five races in case his wife, Chandra, goes into labor. He said the most probable time of delivery is the open week after the July 10 race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Should the baby come on a race day, Johnson said the plan is for him to drive at least one lap to get points and then let Almirola take over so he can fly home, although he didn't rule out missing the entire event if he had a big enough cushion to get into the Chase.
Johnson is seventh in points, 151 clear of what could knock him out of the top 12 should he sit out a race today. The most likely possibility because of time and distance would be if the baby came on June 20 when the series is on the West Coast at Sonoma, Calif.
Johnson said crew chief Chad Knaus is determined the driver will not miss the delivery of his daughter, telling him, "You will be there. I don't care what it costs, what it takes, if we don't get points."
"I'm like, 'I appreciate that, but let's make sure we can cover all the bases if it's possible,' " Johnson added.
Jeff Gordon, Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, hasn't made as specific plans for the birth of his second child in early- to mid-August. The four-time champion said because his first child was a Caesarean section delivery the second is expected to be the same and can be scheduled in a way that he won't miss a race.
"We'll plan a little bit," Gordon said. "Not quite what Jimmie's going through. We're not ready to talk about who goes into the car and what tracks they are."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.