September 25, 2015

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) Tony Gibson started working with Jimmie Johnson's trainer in July to get fit headed into the heart of the NASCAR season.

Gibson wanted to shed some pounds, not his appendix.

Gibson, Kurt Busch's crew chief, was back at work Friday for this weekend's race days after he had an emergency appendectomy. When he ran into Johnson at New Hampshire, the six-time series champion had one question: How much did the appendix weigh?

''Man, you were losing enough as it is,'' Gibson said Johnson told him. ''You didn't have to take body parts out.''

Gibson didn't know the answer but he surely lost a few more pounds to the 26 and counting he's lost since he threw himself into fitness. Gibson's dedication to his job is one reason he refused to take the weekend off. He was back calling the shots for Busch - from pit road instead of his usual stop atop the transporter - for the second Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race on Sunday.

''It would have been worse for me to sit home and watch it,'' Gibson said. ''The guys are capable, more than capable, of doing it without me, that's for sure. I just feel like we're a team. Leave no man behind.''

Busch, the 2004 champ, wasn't about to leave his crew chief behind. Busch sent his plane to Concord, North Carolina, to pick up Gibson. Gibson thanked Busch for the ride and said an extra day to heal helped. Tony Stewart has a plane ready to take Gibson home after the race.

Busch and Gibson are in the hunt to win a championship for Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch has two wins this season and finished third last week at Chicagoland in the Chase opener.

Busch nearly won last week's opening race in the Chase. He was leading and headed to the victory when a caution was called with 10 laps remaining. He was passed by Denny Hamlin on the restart with five laps to go.

The win would have guaranteed Busch an automatic spot in the second round of the playoffs. Instead, he's ranked fifth with two races to go before four drivers are cut from the field of 16. He was eliminated in the first round last year.

''Must have been that late caution,'' Gibson said, laughing.

Gibson, who's battled ulcers his adult life, said he felt pain after Sunday night's race and again on Monday. He was checked out and had surgery on Tuesday. Gibson said he would have been ruled out for the weekend had the appendix ruptured.

He posted on his Facebook page ''Who needs an appendix anyway????''

The team was set to have engineer Jeff Klausmeier ready as interim crew chief for the No. 41 Chevrolet should Gibson miss any time.

''I got the hall pass to be here,'' Gibson said, ''so I'm going to use it.''

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