My how far we’ve come. On March 11, NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. That subsequently shut down the sports world as we know it.
On Friday, Jimmie Johnson became the latest victim of the dreaded virus. NASCAR will continue on without him.
The seven time Cup Series champion announced that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. He will miss Sunday’s Brickyard 400 as a result.
Luckily, Johnson’s health is in pretty good shape. He’s exhibiting no symptoms. The only reason that he even found out that he had it was when his wife Chandra, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms. He in turn took a test.
Johnson, seemed fine on a conference call with reporters on Friday morning. He discussed his excitement for what was supposed to be his 19th and final start in a NASCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson, was looking to join Jeff Gordon and Michael Schumacher in the five win club at the famed track. He’s won the Brickyard four times and was slated to start fourth on Sunday.
“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.”
Now, Justin Allgaier will step in during his absence.
This is a good try out for Allgaier for the No. 48 Chevrolet. The seat is open for next season with Johnson retiring at seasons end.
No one has been in that car since Johnson climbed aboard in 2002. He’s never missed a start. Now, he will.
Johnson, will get awarded a playoff waiver. He’s 12th in the points standings, 63 points above the playoff cutline. The amount of time that he will miss is undetermined. If he misses multiple races, he could be in a position to have to end his three year winless streak if he wants to make the playoffs. He did say that he expects to miss 14 days from now which means Indy, Kentucky and the All-Star race are very much in doubt for him.
NASCAR outlined what Johnson needs to do to become eligible to return to his car again.
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.
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.”
Johnson, took part in a zoom call on Saturday morning to discuss the findings further.
He said he literally has no symptoms and that his wife got her results back at 11 am ET. Both are currently in Colorado and have been there for the last couple of weeks. The only time he’s left was to come to Indianapolis for a sim test and only 2-4 people were in the open room. He hasn’t been to the Hendrick shop since May.
His daughters luckily have tested negative for the virus but it’s tough for him and his wife to distance from them now to ensure that they don’t get it.
Johnson, says that he got a quick test upon learning of his wife’s diagnosis and it came back positive.
He credits his wife on getting tested because he feels so good right now that he’d be at the track asymptomatic. The only reason that he got tested was because his wife tested positive. He doesn’t know who infected who though since both suffer from seasonal allergies.
But, he’s coming to grips that this could be his last Brickyard, but is also at peace that he hopes he can run some one-off races next year with HMS.
While the INDYCAR test is now off, he’s hoping for a future test later this year and still very much interested in racing in the series on a part time basis next year too.
His interior mechanic is the one HMS employee that’s in quarantine because he’s been in contact with Johnson’s equipment obviously.