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Babies, babies, babies. For Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards it's old hat. But for Jimmie and Chandra Johnson.....

 Ella Gordon is becoming a NASCAR regular (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


     By Mike Mulhern


    POCONO, Pa.
    Jimmie Johnson is anxiously awaiting the birth of his first child....and he has mapped out a number of contingency plans for how to get from the track – whichever track he'll be at – back to his home.
    It's due July 11....but these things don't always go like clockwork.
    So Johnson spent Friday practicing some of those quickie flight maneuvers that he may need in a couple of weeks: His Friday began in New York City, with a 7:45 a.m. flight up to Watkins Glen to practice for Saturday's Grand Am sports car race (to prepare him better for the Sprint Cup stop coming up at Sonoma). Then he sprinted down to Pocono Raceway for practice and qualifying for Sunday's Pocono 500. Then he dashed back up to the Glen. And he hopes to be back here some time Saturday night.
    And when wife Chandra does deliver he'll have a game plan.
    Well, he hopes it goes according to some plan.
    The problem is NASCAR has a rule where a team doesn't get credit for a race unless its driver actually makes at least one lap under green.
    That has forced drivers to drive hurt.
    Now it may force Johnson to miss the birth of his first-born child.
    Johnson of course is one of the favorites in this year's NASCAR championship, but if he has to miss a race that would all but knock him out of the chase.
    And Chad Knaus, his crew chief, is insisting that Johnson do everything it takes to be at Chandra's side for the birth, even if it does mean missing a race.
    "I've told Chad 'Hey, let's consider all the situations,'" Johnson said.
    But he knows "There could be a situation where I've got to make a tough decision -- Do I wait and drive that one lap and potentially miss the birth of our daughter, or do I stick around?
    "There is no way around that.
     "It just depends on how things shake out.

   Jimmie Johnson and Chandra are counting down to that first birth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "Hopefully she's on time....or long as it traditionally goes," Johnson went on. "And if that's the case, we'll be into the off-weekend (after the Chicago race) and everything will be fine."
   July 11th?
   "We're going off of averages, and what the doctors can tell us about how long labor typically takes, and all that stuff," Johnson says.
    "But still, each individual's body, and the way the birth goes, it can be fast it can be long.
    "But looking on averages, we feel now with the due date being right after Chicago, on that off-week, we won't have a problem.
     "If the baby does decide to come earlier, Aric (Almirola) will be there (to fill in).
     "The first goal for me would be to drive a lap and get some points. But it just depends on the situation.
      "I guess it could if we had a monster (points) lead, it would be an easy decision (to skip a race).   
     " But in my mind I'd need to make a lap in that car.
      "The one tough one we have would be Sonoma (June 20th) because it's so far away.
      "Chicago or Daytona (July 3rd) are not far away, in the grand scheme of things, when labor takes 20-some hours. If she starts into labor, I have some time -- a 10-hour window or something -- to get there. We can work with all that."
    And at that moment Johnson grinned and added "Does this feel strange, being at the race track and talking about childbirth?"
    Well, it's nothing new around this sport.
    Carl Edwards just went through it
    And Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate, went through it himself just three years ago.
   And Gordon's wife Ingrid is expecting again, in early to mid-August. That time frame includes Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol.
   "Man, I'm on baby number two; you don't make all those plans," Gordon said with a laugh. 
    "Our first time around, we went through it.
    "And it was a little bit different for us, because Ella was breach (in the wrong position for a natural childbirth) for a good portion of the pregnancy -- and there becomes a certain stage where the doctors kind of tell you 'I don't think it's going to change.'
    "So you start to schedule things based on a C-section.
    "That's what we did. 
     "When you do that, they do it early, so you pretty much can plan. And that's how it worked for us. 
    "We had Mark Martin as my backup plan for Sonoma (when they were sweating out Ella's birth). And that's all we did -- just plan for Sonoma. 
    "We didn't really plan for anything else.
    "If it happened any other weekend -- Ingrid and I talked about it -- and if I got the call, if it was on a Friday or Saturday, I would leave. If I'm in the race, then I'm going to run the race and miss it. 
    "I'm a big believer in what's meant to happen is going to happen. So you go with that. 
     "Second time around, more than likely we're going to do a C-section again, because she had one the first time, and the doctor recommends that. And we'll plan a little bit.
    "Not quite what Jimmie is going through. 
    "We're not ready to really talk about who those individuals are on our list (of substitute drivers), and what tracks they are. But as soon as we do know, we'll let you know. 
     "More than likely it will just be one weekend for us that we'll have somebody on stand-by. And, again, more than likely it will just be if it happens prior to the race. "

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  Jeff Gordon and Ingrid, and first daughter Ella (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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