INDIANAPOLIS – One of NASCAR’s biggest names is the first driver to test positive for COVID-19.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will miss Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 Friday afternoon
Hendrick Motorsports made the announcement shortly after 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Johnson will not return to competition until being cleared by a physician.
Johnson, 44, has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19. He was tested upon learning Friday morning that his wife, Chandra, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.
In Johnson’s absence, Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday at 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 was in constant communication with Hendrick Motorsports before and after being tested for COVID-19. The team immediately informed NASCAR and has been coordinating with the sanctioning body. As a precaution, it has also identified one member of the No. 48 traveling crew to self-quarantine due to 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.”
Hendrick Motorsports has implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members. They include daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the separation of facility operations and traveling personnel; split work schedules; stringent face covering and social distancing requirements; and an increased level of disinfecting and sanitization of all work areas.
“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocol manual, Jimmie Johnson has alerted NASCAR that he has tested positive for COVID-19,” NASCAR officials said in a statement.
“NASCAR has outlined the steps for Johnson’s return, in accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines, which includes that Johnson is symptom free and has two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. NASCAR requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing.
“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.”
Johnson took part in a NASCAR Zoom Conference Friday morning and looked fit and healthy. He expressed his excitement entering his final NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and talked about next Wednesday’s IndyCar test with Chip Ganassi Racing. That, also, will not take place after the stunning announcement.
Asked what it would be like to get one final win at Indianapolis, Johnson said, “Storybook to say the least. I certainly hope it happens. We have a great starting spot, starting fourth, and my team is doing an amazing job and we’re ready.”