Jimmie Johnson has become the first NASCAR driver to test positive for COVID-19. His team, Hendrick Motorsports, announced the seven-time champion's test results on Friday on NASCAR.com. Johnson had been previously scheduled to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
"My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates," Johnson's statement read. "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." The statement also indicated that Johnson has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19 himself and that he had gotten tested after learning that his wife, Chandra, had herself been found positive on Friday morning.
NASCAR also issued a statement concerning Johnson's recent reveal, which read that the organization "requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing." It went on to call Johnson "a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery." Additionally, the statement said that NASCAR has granted the drive a playoff waiver, and that "we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship." Given Johnson's absence, Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet in his absence for the race on Sunday.
On Monday, NASCAR also confirmed that it was canceling the annual Cup Series Awards, which traditionally marks the end of the season. The racing league's governing body cited the coronavirus concerns but wanted to try and soften the blow by revealing that the three series champions would still enjoy the opportunity to celebrate their seasons, it would just be at a later date than expected.
"With the uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus and the impact on the industry, this year's NASCAR Champion's Week and NASCAR Cup Series Awards originally scheduled to take place in Nashville will not occur," the statement read. "The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champions will be celebrated at the end of the season with more details to come. We look forward to returning to Nashville in 2021."