Having been medically cleared to return to racing, Jimmie Johnson said he feels great and is eager to get back to his race car at Kentucky Speedway after two negative COVID-19 tests earlier this week.
Johnson would not speculate Friday morning on whether he had a false positive or was at the end of the virus but said he continues to have no symptoms. A positive test result announced one week ago forced Johnson to sit out the race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’ve had no symptoms through this journey,” said Johnson. “There are a lot of scenarios that can play out, and to go through them and try to form an opinion would just be speculating — and at this point, I just don’t think that’s intelligent or smart to do. I followed the protocol that NASCAR has in place; it’s the same protocol, from what I’ve seen watching ESPN, like all the other major sports have as well. I’ve been watching the numerous cases of positive tests take place, and I’ve also seen many examples of a double negative in more than a 24-hour time period take place, and then those athletes have been reinstated. So, it’s a science-based reinstatement process.
“I don’t know a lot, but I do know that I’ve had two negative tests, I’ve followed protocol, I’ve also had a release from my physician to put me back in the car. I feel great, I’m excited, and I’m ready to go.”
NASCAR requires that after an individual has a positive test result, they must have no symptoms along with two negative test results within 24 hours of each other and a doctor’s release to compete. Johnson tested positive last Friday after his wife Chandra had tested positive earlier in the week. Chandra went for a test out of safety following allergy-like symptoms.
Johnson received two negative test results on Monday and Tuesday and was cleared that evening by his doctor. He said Chandra has also been asymptomatic after the initial allergies she felt.
“I’ve followed the protocol,” Johnson reiterated. “It brings a lot of questions as to where I was in the journey of being positive and all that, so there’s a lot of speculation there. I don’t know those answers and believe me, I’m the most frustrated person out there, especially living in a world of facts as I do. To not have the facts drives me bananas, but I have followed protocol, and I’ve been reinstated, so that’s all I can speak to at this point.”
Indianapolis was the first race Johnson missed in his full-time career, ending a streak of 663 consecutive starts. He said the Saturday night before the race was the hardest in dealing with the emotions of not racing. Sunday, he was convinced he wasn’t going to watch the race until he got on the No. 48 team call, heard from his team and driving sub Justin Allgaier, and helped pump them all up.
Johnson is still in playoff contention after missing one race — he dropped to 15th in the standings — and has a waiver from NASCAR. But the seven-time champion admitted his first reaction upon getting his first negative test was anger, and he’s been working to clear his mind for the task ahead since then.
“I used every cuss word I knew of, and then I think invented a few new ones,” said Johnson. “It was just so weird, the anger, because I’ve been asymptomatic, so anger hits and then speculation in my mind, and it’s like, ‘Wait a second, nothing good can come of this. I don’t know, no one knows — just time to move on.’ Then I got very excited and started looking at the fact that I’ve only missed one race, I’ve still got a good gap above the cutline, and then optimism about, ‘Man, I hope I get that second negative,’ and then I did.
“So, I feel like I’m more on the optimistic side of things and out of the dark headspace I was in, and just moving in the right direction and looking forward.”