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Jimmie Johnson's COVID-19 scare left him frustrated with 'more questions than answers'

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Oddly enough, it was hearing he tested negative for COVID-19 that upset Jimmie Johnson.

"I started cussing, and used every cuss word that I knew of," the typically mellow Johnson said Friday. "And then I think I invented a few new ones."

The negative tests came a few days after Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, and his wife, Chandra, tested positive for the virus, forcing the No. 48 driver to miss his first race in his 18-year Cup career last Sunday. He was medically cleared to return to racing Wednesday and is entered for Sunday's race at Kentucky Speedway.

"It was just so weird, the anger," Johnson said. "Because I've been asymptomatic. So anger hits and then speculation in my mind. And then it's like, wait a second, there is nothing good to come of this. No one knows. I don't know. It's just time to move on."

Johnson said the anger stemmed from a search for accurate information in order to move around in the world in the time of coronavirus.

"Anger related to the pandemic, through me being positive, through me missing a race, for me not being with my team, the fear in my children's eyes," Johnson said. "I just had anger everywhere."

 

Johnson declined to speculate whether he had received a false positive test or two false negatives, and added that he had been watching the return of other major sports on ESPN and had seen cases of both. In Major League Baseball, for example, Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo received two positive tests and two negative tests over the course of 10 days. In Major League Soccer, Nashville FC became the second team to withdraw from the MLS Is Back tournament because of a high number of positive coronavirus tests (the first was FC Dallas).

In line with NASCAR's protocol, Johnson tested negative twice this week, more than 24 hours apart, and was cleared by his personal physician. Unlike MLB, MLS or NBA, NASCAR is not requiring or administering regular COVID-19 testing as the sport resumes, nor is it sharing sport-wide test data. Instead, individuals are required to submit health questionnaires and temperature screenings before and after events, which are followed up on by NASCAR's medical team if there is reason for concern, such as checked symptoms or a fever. Teams, not NASCAR, have reported positive test results.

In Johnson's case, the driver was tested via a nasal swab last Friday after his wife experienced allergy-like symptoms and received a positive test. Johnson said he had received a positive antibody test in late April, but that he "didn't know how much to trust the antibody test" since his physician told him there was a "20% chance of being incorrect."

"I don't know how to add clarity and advice, and what changes need to take place," Johnson said Friday. "I unfortunately feel that there's a lot to still be learned in the professional field on this and the medical field on this."

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