Veteran driver Jimmie Johnson missed Sunday's Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 after testing positive for COVID-19. The timeline for his return was unclear at the time, but Hendrick Motorsports just shared positive news. Johnson is officially returning to NASCAR in time for the Quaker State 400.
Hendrick Motorsports released a statement on Wednesday confirming the news. Johnson tested negative twice this week — Monday and Tuesday — and met the requirements for a potential return to the Cup Series. His physician cleared him on Tuesday evening while following NASCAR guidelines and set the stage for Johnson's return. The seven-time champion ultimately missed one race — the first of his Cup Series career — and never experienced any symptoms.
It’s been an emotional journey and I’m so happy to be back. Thank you for all the support. This video was one of my favorites and is too good not to share, courtesy of @bigearl48. See you soon @kyspeedway. pic.twitter.com/zFSJiPN2V0— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 8, 2020
"My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we've received over the last several days," Johnson said in a statement. "I especially want to thank Justin Allgaier for stepping in for me at Indy and being a true pro. I'm excited about getting back to business with my team this weekend." With Johnson getting behind the wheel of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro, Allgaier will return to the Xfinity Series.
The 34-year-old replacement driver entered Sunday's race looking for a top finish while replacing Johnson. However, his day ended early due to an incident on pit road. NASCAR officials waved the yellow competition caution flag on lap 12, sending the majority of the field to the pits for new tires. A chain-reaction crash took place at the beginning of the road, forcing multiple drivers out of the race and sending a member of Ryan Blaney's pit crew to the hospital. Along with Allgaier, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Corey LaJoie were unable to continue in the race.
When Johnson tested positive prior to the Hand Sanitizer 400, the team responded by testing others that had interactions with the veteran driver. Hendrick Motorsports tested four crew members of the 48 team, but all received negative results. This guarantees that Johnson will have his normal team in action at the Kentucky Speedway.
The No. 48 team also implemented changes to guarantee the health of their team members. According to a press release, this includes daily coronavirus screenings at the team facilities and the separation of facility operations and traveling personnel. Additionally, workers have split schedules and strict face covering and social distancing requirements.
Despite missing one race, the 44-year-old driver remains in playoff contention. He sits 15th overall in the drivers' standings, 46 points above the cutoff point. Johnson has not secured a victory during the 2020 season but has secured two top-five finishes and six top-10s.