Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has reported a positive COVID-19 test, Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday evening.
The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet was set to compete for his series-best fifth win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Sunday’s race (4 p.m. ET, NBC), but he is no longer cleared to compete. Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet on Sunday as his replacement.
NASCAR outlined the steps for Johnson’s return in accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines: Johnson must be symptom free and have two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. Additionally, NASCAR requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing.
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“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a team release. “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 will not accrue points for races in which he does not compete, but he would be granted a playoff waiver should he qualify for the postseason. The 44-year-old driver, who has said 2020 will be his last year as a full-time driver, currently sits 12th in the points standings. He is 63 points above the playoff cutline.
According to a Hendrick Motorsports statement, Johnson 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.
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.”
NASCAR released this statement on Friday:
“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocols manual, Jimmie Johnson has alerted NASCAR that he has tested positive for COVID-19. 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.”
Allgaier has driven full time for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2016. He has eight wins during that stretch and has finished in the top four of the standings in three of the previous four seasons.
Allgaier tweeted a statement that read, in part, “I … believe we can make Jimmie and this #48 team proud until he’s ready to get back behind the wheel.”
Please read. pic.twitter.com/rrBdcQQm4N
— Justin Allgaier (@J_Allgaier) July 4, 2020