(Reuters) – Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has become the first NASCAR driver to test positive for COVID-19 and will miss this weekend’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports said on Friday.
Johnson, who will not return to competition until being cleared by a physician, has not experienced COVID-19 symptoms and was tested upon learning earlier on Friday that his wife had tested positive after having allergy-like symptoms.
“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a news release issued by Hendrick Motorsports.
“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.”
In order to return to racing, NASCAR said Johnson must be symptom free and have two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart, and also be cleared by his physician.
The 44-year-old Johnson, a four-times winner of the Brickyard 400, was due to start the race in the second row in fourth position.
Hendrick Motorsports said Justin Allgaier will drive the No. 48 Chevrolet on Sunday as Johnson’s replacement.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Daniel Wallis)