Johnson on COVID-19: ‘I don’t think you can be careful enough’
Jimmie Johnson’s final fulltime NASCAR season has been a rocky one, but he hopes he can turn his COVID-19 diagnosis into a learning experience.
Johnson tested positive for the novel coronavirus Friday afternoon which will force him to miss Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ending a streak of 663 consecutive starts since becoming a full-time Cup Series driver in 2002.
Early Friday morning, Johnson’s wife, Chandra, had received a positive test result after developing allergy-like symptoms while on a trip to Colorado. Johnson and the couple’s two daughters were both tested as a precaution. Johnson tested positive while both of their children tested negative.
Johnson, 44, had announced last fall that the 2020 season would be his last as a fulltime driver in NASCAR.
“I can be down and out about my situation but if I turn on the news and I see how this virus has impacted so many others, I quickly feel thankful that I’m asymptomatic and I don’t have any major issues,” said Johnson, who also had to cancel a planned IndyCar Series test next week with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It would be very easy right now to be bummed out and look at this the wrong way, but I’m healthy, my wife is healthy, my kids are (healthy) and our prayers are that it stays that way. We’re hopeful that from our situation maybe some others can learn from this as well.
“If it wasn’t for Chani’s diligence to do the right thing at all times we would be going on with life as normal and who knows who we could have come in contact with and the repercussions that could have had.
“I know our country and the world right now is over quarantine and over all these technicalities we have to deal with, but as a family that has been very safe and very cautious, it shows how diligent you truly need to be through all of this.”
Self-isolating while parenting
Johnson said the most difficult thing to deal with right now is the fact he and his wife have tested positive while his children are negative and trying to manage parenting around that dynamic.
“This is a crazy situation to manage in our household right now – trying to do self-isolation while also trying to parent,” he said. “Our biggest concern right now is our children. We’re being very responsible in our home.
“Thankfully we’re healthy and hope we stay that way. But for a nine and six year-old, to try to manage the fear right now, they can’t come around mom or dad. We’re concerned about feeding them and passing the virus.
“On the home front with our kids, we’re heartbroken right now to see the fear in their eyes, watching them trying to manage what’s going on right now.”
Johnson said the diagnosis for he and his wife was unexpected simply since they have tried to be very diligent in taking precautions toward avoiding a possible infection.
“We’ve been wearing masks for a long time, following protocols in washing our hands, being as careful as we thought we could be,” Johnson said. “I have more questions than I do answers at this point.
“I don’t think you care be careful enough. Clearly, we weren’t because with our best attempts we still ended up positive somehow.”
Johnson likely to miss All-Star Race
In order to return to competition, Johnson will have to serve a 14-day quarantine from today or receive two consecutive negative COVID-19 test results with at least 24 hours in between each test and receive clearance from a doctor.
He will definitely miss Sunday’s race at Indy and the July 12 race at Kentucky Speedway and July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway could also both be in danger.
That timeline also assumes Johnson doesn’t develop any symptoms, which could extend the time of his testing threshold and quarantine.
Despite interruption in the 2020 season due to the pandemic, the lack of fans at most races and now this diagnosis, Johnson said he has already had to communicate to Hendrick Motorsports that this will be his final fulltime NASCAR season and will not waver from that.
“Of course, I wanted to race at the Brickyard and I’m disappointed I’m not going to have some of the ‘lasts’ I had hoped to have, but I just don’t know where we’re going to be at the end of this year, let alone next year,” Johnson said.
“I do know that I still want to compete. I had to inform Hendrick Motorsports that I don’t plan to be in the car fulltime. I’m hopeful I can have the opportunity to come back and run a Hendrick Cup car in some races.
“Clearly, I also have this interest in IndyCar, sports cars and other forms of racing. That’s helping me deal with this and not feel like I’m having things taken away from me.”
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