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NASCAR’s Johnson OK’d to race after 2 negative virus tests

NASCAR Johnson Coronavirus Auto Racing - AP Photo/John Raoux

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has twice tested negative for the coronavirus and will race Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Johnson missed the first race of his Cup career when he tested positive last Friday. He was tested after his wife received a positive result.

Hendrick Motorsports said Johnson tested negative on Monday and Tuesday and will return to the No. 48 Chevrolet at Kentucky. NASCAR confirmed Wednesday that Johnson has been cleared to return.

“It’s been an emotional journey and I’m so happy to be back,” he tweeted.

Johnson’s streak of 663 consecutive starts — most among active drivers — was snapped when he didn’t race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Justin Allgaier replaced him at the Brickyard 400 and finished 37th after an early multi-car crash on pit road.

Johnson is the only NASCAR driver to test positive for the coronavirus since the series resumed racing on May 17. He is scheduled to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of this season.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” he said. “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.”

Johnson never experienced any symptoms; his wife, Chani, was tested after suffering from what she thought was routine seasonal allergies. When she received her positive result, Johnson and their two young daughters were tested. Their daughters were negative.

Hendrick Motorsports had four crew members tested for COVID-19 after Johnson’s diagnosis and all four received negative results. The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday’s race.

Missing the Brickyard 400 dropped Johnson to 15th in the driver standings, 46 points above the cutoff for playoffs.

Even before Johnson’s diagnosis, Hendrick Motorsports had implemented strict protocols that include daily health screenings for employees working at team facilities. The organization works in split work schedules with stringent face covering and social distancing requirements. Hendrick has also increased its level of disinfecting and sanitizing all work areas.

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