NASCAR Sprint Cup championship leader Jimmie Johnson will skip qualifying for this weekend’s Richmond round due to the birth of his second daughter.
Regan Smith will drive Johnson’s Hendrick Chevrolet in Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions, but Johnson will drop to the back of the field when he reclaims the car for Saturday night’s race. Nationwide Series front-runner Smith performed stand-in duties for Hendrick in several late-season races last year after Johnson’s teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr, suffered a concussion.
The five-time champion’s wife Chandra gave birth to a daughter early on Friday morning, prompting Johnson to head to the hospital in Charlotte to join her.
Johnson currently leads Clint Bowyer by 28 points in the standings, but the scores will be reset after Richmond when the Chase portion of the season begins.