WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Jimmie Johnson can secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this week at Watkins Glen International, and he wasn't even thinking about that on Friday.
Like his counterparts in the series, Johnson was thinking about injured star Tony Stewart, who broke both the tibia and fibula in his right leg on Monday night in a sprint car race in Iowa. He has since undergone two surgeries and is out indefinitely.
Max Papis will drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, where Stewart has a track-record five Cup wins. It will bring Stewart's streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts to an end, and it's his absence that gives Johnson the opportunity to be the first to lock into the Chase on points.
Johnson says "It's not the way I want to clinch, by any means, with him not being here at the race track. It's a big loss for our sport. It's crazy to think that he won't be a player in the Chase."
Cup practice was delayed by rain until late Friday afternoon.