New arrival keeps Jimmie Johnson away from practice, qualifying

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. (Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. (Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va.–Jimmie Johnson’s scheduled Friday media availability came and went at Richmond International Raceway, but the five-time champion didn’t–and with good reason.

At 2:02 a.m. Friday, Johnson’s wife Chandra gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, a 5-pound, 10-ounce new arrival. Her name is Lydia Noriss.

Johnson scrapped plans to be at the race track on Friday, leaving the driving duties to NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith, who was enlisted to practice and qualify the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS on Friday.

It was Smith who subbed for Dale Earnhardt Jr. last season when Earnhardt missed two races because of a concussion.

Johnson plans to compete in Saturday Night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond, though he’ll have to start from the rear because of the driver change.

Crew chief Chad Knaus fully supported Johnson’s decision to skip Friday’s on-track action.

“He’s enjoying the moment with Chani,” Knaus said Friday morning at Richmond. “He really wanted to be here, but after talking it over with him last night and really trying to put some sense to it, 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 (Saturday) night, (he’ll actually be) fresh and ready to go, instead of sleep-deprived and wanting to be with his kid.”

Johnson has the luxury of skipping the Friday sessions, because he’s already locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He’s the only driver who has qualified for the Chase every year since the inception of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff in 2004.

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