Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has become the first NASCAR driver to confirm he has tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement, Hendrick Motorsports announced Johnson, 44, had tested positive on Friday afternoon, forcing him out of this weekend’s Brickyard 400 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson has not experienced any symptoms but was tested upon learning his wife, Chandra, had a positive result after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.
Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet in place of Johnson in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Johnson participated in a media Zoom conference call on Friday morning talking about this weekend’s race and his upcoming IndyCar Series test next week, which is now postponed.
“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” 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, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”
HMS said Johnson was in constant communication with the organisation before and after being tested for COVID-19. The team immediately informed NASCAR and has been coordinating with the sanctioning body.
“Following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocol manual, Jimmie Johnson has alerted NASCAR that he has tested positive for COVID-19,” a statement from NASCAR said.
“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,” the statement added.
HMS said 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.”
Hendrick Motorsports has implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members.
They include daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the 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.
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