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The Exhaust Circuit

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  July 13, 2012 12:51 PM

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LOUDON, N.H. --- The baby boom, it seems, has hit NASCAR. Ryan Newman and his wife, Krissie, will be expecting their second daughter anytime soon -- and we mean anytime soon -- during this weekend's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Last Sunday, Kevin and Delana Harvick welcomed their first child into the world when Keelan Paul Harvick was born (6 pounds 8 ounces; 19.5 inches) the day after the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday, Harvick, the driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet fielded by Richard Childress Racing, met with the media at NHMS to describe the whirlwind nature of the week leading up to his son's birth.

"It's been a crazy week to tell you the truth,'' Harvick said. "It all started in Daytona, as everybody knows. Yeah, we went in and she did a great job and had a baby within about two hours. Dad waited a little long to get her to the hospital. I was obviously not her favorite person as they told her they wouldn’t give her an epidural.

"She did good. She had it all natural, no drugs or nothing,'' Harvick said. "We had a healthy baby boy, and that was the most important part. Everybody is good and at home, doing normal things.”

That brought a measure of relief for Harvick, who was asked if, as an accomplished driver on NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, he did the driving when he chauffered his wife to the hospital.

"First off, I did drive her to the hospital,'' Harvick said. "The only part for me it wasn't very fast because she was obviously in a lot of pain. Like I said, that was partly my fault because I made her wait too long. So, we didn't make any real fast corners. We would go straight and fast. I had been to the doctor's office several times so I knew where every bump was. So I didn't get yelled at on the drive over and that was my goal.''

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As if hitting the wall at Daytona wasn't punishing enough, Jimmie Johnson went out and punished himself some more by competing in his first sprint triathlon -- 1/2-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 5K run -- last Sunday morning in Charleston, S.C.

Johnson finished 46th overall and seventh in his age-group in 1:11:57 after finishing 36th at Daytona, where his night ended with a thud on Lap 123 when his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet spun coming out of Turn 4 and was sent hurtling into a retaining wall where it hit head-on at full speed.

Unhurt, Johnson climbed out of his car and began to prepare himself to make the trek to Charleston, where he was joined by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and members of his No. 48 pit crew who, Johnson said, flew home after the race, jumped into a motorhome and ``literally pulled up in the parking lot 30 minutes prior to the start,'' he said..

Johnson, who finished behind Kahne by 27 seconds, said he struggled on the run portion, which was typically one of his strong suits.

"Once I got in the run, I started to cramp and unfortunately stopped a couple of times and had a pretty poor run-time, which affected my overall [result],'' he said. "But it was such an awesome experience. The training for the event itself, I had butterflies like I was getting ready to start a Cup race or something.

"That cut into my sleep, the little bit of sleep that we had, following the Daytona race,'' he said. "So all in all, it was an amazing experience. It was a really cool thing all around and I look forward to doing more in the future. But from the incident, I don't think I slept or sat still long enough for any pain to set in.

"And the pain that I had was relative to the triathlon and not the crash,'' Johnson said. "So, I think I worked out all the kinks in Charleston."

Johnson said no side-drafting was allowed in the swim or bike portion, but was surprised by a fan who approached him as he was putting on his shoes in the transition area.

"I went a couple of hundred yards and my calves started to cramp-up,'' Johnson said. "I went to a curb and was stretching my calves real quick and a guy in a No. 24 hat came running up with a Bud Light and said, `Hey, this will help, this will help.' I was, `Not yet man, I've got three miles and I'll be back and then I'll take you up on that.'

"That got me laughing pretty good,'' Johnson said. "And then he did find me after the event. I was thankful to see him then.''

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When Jeff Burton won the New Hampshire 300 in 2000, setting a NASCAR record by leading all 300 laps, it was a feat that was not likely to ever be matched. Johnson, however, felt it was possible. After all, Johnson was the driver who smashed Cale Yarborough's record three consecutive NASCAR titles by winning five in a row.

"It's possible, it's there,'' Johnson said. "I remember watching that [race]. I remember watching [Dale] Earnhardt [Sr.] trying to get a lap back or something with Burton. But Burton knew he wanted to keep him down because Earnhardt was strong. So anything is possible.

"When you look at the three straight [championships] that Cale had [won] and people thought it was impossible to break that and win from the the mid-to-late 70s all the way to the 2010 when we had our [fifth] in a row.

"So it's possible, long story short,'' Johnson said. "I think it gets more difficult as time goes on. But it is possible. And I want to believe those things are possible because I'd love to win seven championships. So I still have a carrot out there in front of myself.''

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