Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that Jimmie Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19.
Johnson, 44, is the first NASCAR driver publicly known to have the coronavirus. He will miss Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He’ll be replaced by Justin Allgaier, who races for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.
The team said the seven-time champion was asymptomatic and took a coronavirus test after his wife Chandra had tested positive for the virus. Johnson has never missed a race throughout his Cup Series career and is in his final Cup Series season.
“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”
HMS said that another member of Johnson’s team will quarantine after being in contact with him.
“Jimmie has handled this situation like the champion he is,” team owner Rick 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.”
Johnson has won four Brickyard 400s in 18 starts at Indianapolis. His most recent victory at the track came in 2012 after he won a fourth race at IMS in seven seasons.
When Johnson can return
According to NASCAR’s coronavirus rules, Johnson must be symptom-free and has to test negative for the virus twice in tests that are at least 24 hours apart. He also has to be cleared by a physician.
“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery,” a NASCAR statement said.
NASCAR has implemented social distancing and mask-wearing procedures at tracks since returning to racing on May 17. Crew members across various teams have tested positive for coronavirus since NASCAR has returned to racing.
While NASCAR is requiring the use of face coverings at tracks and other protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it is not testing participants for coronavirus when they enter the track on race weekends. Had Johnson’s wife not gotten a coronavirus test after her allergy-like symptoms this week, Johnson could have raced on Sunday with coronavirus if he remained asymptomatic and passed NASCAR’s pre-race temperature check.
Johnson gets playoff waiver
NASCAR rules state that a driver can’t miss races and be eligible to win the championship. But it frequently grants waivers to drivers that do miss races and said Friday afternoon that Johnson would get a waiver.
Johnson would either need to win a race before the playoffs or be high enough in the points standings to make the 16-driver field. He missed the playoffs for the first time in his Cup Series career in 2019 and hasn’t won a race since a victory at Dover in June of 2017. If Johnson wins a race before the playoffs after he returns to racing all he has to do is be in the top-30 of the points standings to be playoff eligible.
Johnson announced over the offseason that the 2020 season would be his final full-time season in NASCAR. Johnson is tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most Cup Series championships and has won 83 races over 666 Cup Series starts.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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