Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion who is in his final full-time year competing for Hendrick Motorsports, has tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Johnson, 44, presented himself for testing after learning his wife, Chandra, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms. As a result of his positive test, Johnson will miss Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will not return to NASCAR competition until he’s been cleared by a physician.
The Hendrick Motorsports team has detailed procedures to protect the health of all its team members working on and driving the four team NASCAR Cup Series cars. These procedures include daily COVID-19 screenings at the team’s Concord, NC headquarters, 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.
“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” the asymptomatic 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,” he said, “I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”
Rick Hendrick owner of Hendrick Motorsports has assigned Justin Allgaier to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in Sunday’s race at Indianapolis. “Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is,” Hendrick said. “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.”
NASCAR outlined steps for Johnson’s return, in accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines. These include Johnson being symptom-free and having two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. NASCAR has required Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to the Cup Series, the series said. In its statement, NASCAR said, “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.”
This situation changes Johnson’s plans for the upcoming week; he was scheduled to test a Chip Ganassi Racing Indy car on IMS’ road course this coming Wednesday.