A positive COVID test followed by two negative tests; Now, the NASCAR driver returns for The COVID comeback
Jimmie Johnson ran 663 consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races. In that time, he’s collected 7 series championships, tied for the most all time.
On Friday, he and his family got a COVID test. Johnson and his wife both tested positive while their kids came back negative.
Since then, Johnson has been cleared to race, missing just one race. The driver has been tested twice since the initial COVID test and both came back negative.
“Obviously, just an interesting week or so to have the positive test and then the two negative tests,” Johnson said in a Zoom video conference.
“Just emotional and a journey that you go through worrying about your safety, your family’s safety, watching a race with somebody else in your race car and the emotion that goes with that.”
“Coming to grips with the reality of all that has been challenging, but I’ve always subscribed to growing through these tough moments, and I feel like I’m a smarter, stronger person today experiencing all this.”
In 2020, Johnson is in his final season as a full-time driver of the No. 48 car.
“It’s been an interesting year. As much as I want to wonder, ‘Why does this happen in my final full time season in cup?’ “
“As I turn on the news, look around and see how many people are really ill from this. The seriousness of the pandemic… It quickly fades out of my mind. This is a big problem, it’s a pandemic.”
“So, I’ve really kept my emotions in check. I’m just trying to figure out how to keep my family safe. And how I can learn from everything that’s going on.”
Was it a false positive?
“I’ve had no symptoms through this journey. There’s a lot of scenarios that can play out. To go through them and try to form an opinion would just be speculating. At this point, I don’t think that’s very intelligent to do.”
“I’ve been watching the numerous cases of positive tests take place. I’ve also seen many examples of a double negative in more than a 24 hour period of time. Then, those athletes have been reinstated.”
“I don’t know a lot. But, I do know I had two negative tests.”
After the first negative test, Johnson took another turn on the emotional rollercoaster of the week.
“My first response was just anger. I started cussing and used every cuss word that I knew of, and I think invented a few new ones,” Johnson said.
“It was just so weird, the anger, because I’ve been asymptomatic. Anger hits. And then speculation in my mind. And then it’s, ‘Wait a second, there is nothing good that can come of this. No one knows. I don’t know. It’s just time to move on.’ “
“Then I got very excited and starting looking at the facts that I’ve only missed one race. I still have a gap to the cutline.”
“I feel like I am more on the optimistic side of things and out of the dark headspace that I was in and moving in the right direction.”
As stated, Johnson wasn’t the only one in his family to test positive for Coronavirus. He wife did as well.
“Chandra’s great,” Johnson said “She’s been asymptomatic as well.”
“From the very beginning, she had some allergies. But, it’s allergy season here in Colorado. So, everybody has allergies.”
“I’m not sure that is a symptom. I believe she is truly asymptomatic as well.”
“Very thankful that we’re not dealing with the virus like many others are and having the complications that come with this virus.”
Like many, Johnson has been tuned to the news as he goes to fall asleep at night.
“Just watching how fast the virus is spreading. And, things staying open, pushing forward as a country and as a world. I fear that we’re all going to have this at some point. I don’t see how we avoid that.”
“This thing shows no mercy and it moves so quickly, as we all know. Once it’s in your community, I don’t know how you slow it down. So, take care of yourself, your loved ones, be smart.”
“My hands are dry and cracking from washing them so much. We know the ways to help it not spread. I think we just need to get more serious about that.”
Many NASCAR teams have had positive tests of employees such as Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske. The NASCAR sanction itself also had an employee test positive early on in the outbreak.
Johnson was the first driver to test positive for the virus. Though, he could also be the only driver to get tested at all. NASCAR has stated that they are interested in providing COvID tests within their community but they stated the technology isn’t there for fast, mass testing.
“I don’t know how to add clarity or advice in what changes need to take place,” Johnson said.
“I unfortunately feel that there’s a lot to still be learned in the professional and medical field on this and I, like everyone else, are eagerly awaiting on that instruction and that knowledge, a vaccine, better testing, better screening.”
“Many, if not all sports have the exact same reinstatement program. I’ve seen a player on the PGA get reinstated in a short period of time, with two negative tests. It brings us to a lot of questions of where I was in the journey of being positive. I don’t know those answers and believe me, I’m the most frustrated person out there.”
“To not have the facts, drives me bananas.”
Ahead of the race weekend, Johnson rode up to 10,500 feet on a bicycle. He’s pumped and ready to get back into the car.
“In my head of optimism, I’m like, ‘What a comeback story.’ The COVID comeback. I’ve always been highly motivated. It would certainly be cool to have success on Sunday.”