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Jimmie Johnson won't miss any seat time next week for the Budweiser Shootout all-star race or pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 after minor surgery on his finger to repair a severed tendon and nerve.

Johnson cut his hand during the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday while trying to cut a hole in his driver's suit for a cooling hose. The injury required stitches at the track, and the three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion left immediately for a hand specialist in Charlotte, N.C.

"The doctors did a great job in Daytona and Charlotte, and I can't thank them enough," Johnson said. "Everything feels good, and I'll be ready to roll for Daytona."

ALLMENDINGER SIGNED: AJAllmendinger will drive the No. 44 Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports in the season-opening Budweiser Shootout and at least the first eight Sprint Cup races this season.

The team, formed from the merger of Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, wants to put together a sponsorship package that would guarantee the 27-year-old's participation in the rest of the 2009 races and the 2010 season.

This will be Allmendinger's third NASCAR season. He was part of the GEM team for the last five races of 2008.

NASCAR BLAMED IN CRASH: Investigators on Wednesday blamed NASCAR for a "tragic, unnecessary" plane crash in 2007, saying it let one of its aircraft take off without checking an electrical problem reported the day before.

NASCAR violated federal aviation rules when it allowed the small corporate plane back in the air July 10, 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The Cessna 310 was en route from Daytona Beach to Lakeland in Florida when it crashed outside Orlando. The plane hit two homes, killing a 24-year-old law student, her 6-month-old son and a 4-year-old neighbor. Also killed were the NASCAR pilot and the husband of a NASCAR executive, also a pilot.

The safety board also said the crash resulted partly from sloppy maintenance record-keeping at NASCAR's aviation unit.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said NASCAR has worked with aviation industry experts "to improve our safety management systems so as to prevent an accident like this from occurring in the future."

FESTIVAL DATES CHANGE: Darlington Raceway's Historic Racing Festival will return this fall.

Track president Chris Browning said the two-day event will be held the weekend of Sept. 26-27.

Browning says the dates were moved from Labor Day weekend to accommodate more entries in the festival's second year. Those who attended in 2008 got to meet racing greats including David Pearson , Junior Johnson and Darrell Waltrip .

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