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Jimmie Johnson advocates for less NASCAR races

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the series championship following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17, 2013. Credit: Getty Images / Chris Graythen

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson supports NASCAR's changes to the Chase format and qualifying which will alter the way the sport crowns its champion in 2014.

But he thinks NASCAR should consider other methods to expand and engage its audience. Less, he says, could be more.

"I think you can argue that maybe there's a little too much NASCAR at times - that maybe we race too many times and maybe our races are long," Johnson said at Thursday's NASCAR Media Day at Daytona. "When we have venues that can't sell out both events, maybe one race would be better for them. I think that's a way to limit the number of races that we run.

"I think there could be some format changes and procedure changes during the course of an event to kind of compact it. It's a major time commitment to come to the race track. You got a two-hour commute with traffic in and out and you've got a five-hour event. That's just a daunting task for a lot of families."

Stewart ready to race

Tony Stewart pronounced himself set to go for the Feb. 23 Daytona 500, even though his surgically-repaired right leg is only about 65 percent healed. "We're over the hard part," says Stewart, who hasn't raced since breaking his tibia and fibula in an Aug. 5 sprint car crash at Southern Iowa Speedway.

"I'll still be dealing with G-forces, vibrations," he said. "We obviously won't know exactly how the leg will respond and the amount of pain there might be until I'm in the car for the practice session [Friday] before the Sprint Unlimited [Feb. 15]."

Stewart has won four Sprint Cup races at Daytona International Speedway but will be looking for his first Daytona 500 victory in 16 tries.

New heights

Owner/driver Michael Waltrip said NASCAR's elimination of the ride-height rule is "the biggest rule change that has ever happened in the sport since I've been around. Last year, the car wanted to live 4 1/2 inches off the ground. When drivers lost the aero, they were constantly in traffic fighting that car. Now we're just setting them up in the garage, really close to where they want to run. If I was a smart guy, I would have bought a spring company about last November because we've bought more springs over the last couple of months than we have in the history of MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing)."

Kenseth high on teammates

Hendrick Motorsports has the defending champ. Stewart-Haas Racing made the landmark offseason moves, adding Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch to its stable. But Matt Kenseth, who finished second to Johnson in his first year at JGR and led the most laps in last year's Daytona 500 before engine failure, says fans shouldn't sleep on the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing. "I don't think anyone expected us to have the year we had," Kenseth said. "We've got Denny [Hamlin] - who won the last race at Homestead - back healthy again. Kyle [Busch] finished as high as he's ever finished in points. We ran good most of the year. I don't know why we shouldn't be better this year."

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