Johnson prepares for early delivery

NEW YORK -- The golf cart will be ready to whisk Jimmie Johnson to the helicopter, which will be waiting to rush him to the plane.

The four-time defending Sprint Cup champion has all the details covered in case his wife goes into labor while he's at Sonoma this weekend.

He and wife, Chandra, are expecting their first child next month. The baby is due during the break between the July 10 race in Chicago and the July 25 race in Indianapolis, but Johnson is prepared should he become a father early.

Part-time Cup driver Aric Almirola is set to serve as an emergency fill-in if need be.

Johnson just hopes he can drive at least the first lap of the upcoming races, because that would mean he'd receive any points the car earns.

"That's our first goal," he told The Associated Press. "I guess there is a situation that could exist where I can't be in the car for the first lap. My wife and I don't want that to be the case."

Everybody else around them appears less worried.

"The team seems to be very relaxed as of right now, and my sponsors, saying, 'Hey, you need to be there for the birth of your child," he added. "So fingers are crossed, legs are crossed, toes are crossed. We're trying to make sure we have a little luck on our side."

Johnson was in New York on Tuesday for Samsung's Hope for Children banquet. The organization, formerly called Four Seasons of Hope, is supporting his charitable foundation.

Johnson has gotten plenty of advice from his fellow drivers with young kids. The biggest recommendation is to take advantage of his days at the track to catch up on sleep, "because when you get back home Sunday night, it's full contact."

"The group that I came in with all about the same age, our conversations were all on dating," the 34-year-old Johnson said of his early days in NASCAR. "Then it was all about getting engaged, and then married, and now we're all talking about kids and stuff like that. It's been wild to see the garage area go through this huge change as a group. There is more diaper talk than you can imagine at the racetracks right now."