By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will miss out on competing in Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after testing positive for COVID-19.
After learning Friday morning that his wife Chandra had tested positive following allergy-like symptoms, Johnson, who has been asymptomatic, was tested as well, with the test returning a positive result.
Per NASCAR’s guidelines, Johnson will not return to competition until being cleared by a doctor and will have to remain symptom-free and have two consecutive negative test results at least 24 hours apart to gain approval to return to racing.
While Johnson is on the sidelines this weekend, Justin Allgaier will take over driving duties of the No. 48 Chevrolet. No announcement has been made on who would fill in for Johnson should he be required to miss additional races after Indianapolis.
“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”
Johnson, who has made 663 consecutive starts and would have been going for his fifth win at Indianapolis, is the first among the NASCAR driving corps to test positive for the virus, with a number of crew members for different teams testing positive in the weeks since NASCAR returned to competition in mid-May.
Along with Johnson’s absence, a member of the Hendrick Motorsports road crew has also been advised to self-quarantine after having recent close contact with the driver.
“Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “We’re relieved he isn’t showing symptoms and that Chani is doing great, and we know he’ll be back and ready to go very soon. It’s going to be difficult for him to be out of the car and away from his team, but it’s the right thing to do for Jimmie and everyone involved.”
Even though Johnson won’t be able to compete and accrue championship points this weekend in Indianapolis, NASCAR advised in a statement that it has granted Johnson a playoff waiver, so he remains eligible to chase a record eighth Cup Series championship upon his return to the track.
“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery. NASCAR has granted Jimmie a playoff waiver, and we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship.”
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First and foremost my thoughts are with @jimmiejohnson and his family. My wife, Ashley, Harper, and I wish them a speedy recovery and, just as everyone else, want nothing more than to see him back in the car as soon as possible. The Brickyard 400 will NOT be the same without him. I’m honored @teamhendrick chose me to be on reserve during this pandemic time. The organization has been very careful in their planning for these rare occasions. I look forward to representing @allyracing, @chevrolet , Mr. Hendrick, and all of the Team Hendrick partners to the best of my ability and believe we can make Jimmie and this #48 team proud until he’s ready to get back behind the wheel.