NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and will miss Sunday’s Brickyard 400 race, ending a streak of 663 straight races started, Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday.
Johnson had shown no symptoms, but his wife Chandra had been feeling sick and tested positive, according to Hendrick Motorsports. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was tested Friday morning after Chandra’s diagnosis.
“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.”
Johnson had made 663 consecutive starts, over 18 years and had announced this would be his final full-time year in NASCAR. Justin Allgaier will replace Johnson in the No. 48 car Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“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 said that Johnson can return to racing when he is “symptom free and (has) 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 is currently 12th in the points standings, and 63 points above the cut line for the NASCAR playoffs.