Jimmie Johnson became the first NASCAR driver to announce he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and will miss Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Johnson, who is asymptomatic, took the test after his wife, Chandra, had tested positive herself.
While he knows it won’t be easy to watch the race on Sunday from the sidelines — the seven-time champion has never missed a race throughout his Cup Series career, which is coming to a close after this season — that isn’t his focus.
Instead, Johnson is worried for his two daughters.
“My biggest concern right now is for my children,” Johnson said in a Saturday news conference. “Of course we’re being very responsible right now, at home, trying to self-isolate, but at the same time, trying to parent. That’s a really tricky hurdle, trying to sort out right now, while managing their fears.
“They can’t come around Mom and Dad, and we’ve got to feed them and, at the same time, are concerned about passing on the virus. We’re trying to be as healthy as we can, but I’m heartbroken seeing the fears in their eyes watching them try to manage what’s going on right now.”
Johnson’s two children, both under the age of 10, have each tested negative themselves and are at home in Aspen, Colorado.
It’s unclear when Johnson will be able to return, though NASCAR rules state that he must be symptom-free, test negative for the coronavirus twice in tests that are at least 24 hours apart and be cleared by a physician.
Though Johnson is the first — at least the first to publicly acknowledge — that he has tested positive, the coronavirus pandemic is still raging throughout the United States.
There were more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country as of Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to it. The United States reported more than 50,000 new cases on both Thursday and Friday — including a single-day record 55,595 on Thursday. Indiana had nearly 50,000 cases, more than 11,000 of which were in Marion County, where Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located.
The news wasn’t, and isn’t, easy for Johnson to swallow. But, given what’s happening around the country, the 44-year-old knows he can’t get too down about it.
"2020 has been interesting, there’s no doubt about it," Johnson said. "I can be down and out about my situation, but if I turn on the news and see how this virus is impacting so many others, quickly I’m thankful that I’m asymptomatic and don’t have any other issues."
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