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Jimmie Johnson cleared to return to competition at Kentucky

NASCAR officials on Wednesday cleared Jimmie Johnson to return to competition this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

The seven-time Cup Series champion self-reported a positive COVID-19 test last Friday, forcing him out of the circuit’s most recent race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is set to return to the driver’s seat of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in the Bluegrass State.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” Johnson said in a team release. “I especially want to thank Justin Allgaier for stepping in for me at Indy and being a true pro. I’m excited about getting back to business with my team this weekend.”

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Johnson, 44, met the criteria established by NASCAR officials since the sport returned to action in May after the coronavirus outbreak. The requirements include two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart, an absence of symptoms, and medical clearance from a physician.

According to Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson tested negative twice this week – on Monday and Tuesday – and was cleared by his physician Tuesday evening in accordance with NASCAR guidelines. The driver never experienced symptoms.

Following Johnson’s diagnosis, four Hendrick Motorsports crew members were tested for COVID-19 with all four receiving negative results, according to a team release. The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday’s event at Kentucky

Johnson became the first NASCAR driver to reveal a positive coronavirus test. A member of Hendrick Motorsports’ road crew who had been in closer contact with Johnson was also self-quarantined after Johnson’s positive test.

Allgaier, an Xfinity Series regular for JR Motorsports, finished 37th Sunday at Indianapolis in an interim role in the No. 48 Chevy. His fill-in role ended after just 17 laps after he was snared by a multi-car tangle on pit road during the first round of stops.

The driver change ended Johnson’s streak of consecutive Cup Series starts at 663, a span that stretched back to his rookie season in 2002.

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