By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson is just as confused as everyone else about his plight with the coronavirus. A positive test caused the seven-time NASCAR champion to miss the first race of his career, and it was followed three days later by a negative test.
He never suffered any symptoms and was only tested after his wife, bothered by seasonal allergies, received a positive test.
Was it a false positive? Were he and wife, Chani, carrying the virus for some time before their tests?
He has no answers.
“I’d just be speculating,” Johnson said Friday, a full week after he tested positive.
Johnson sat out last Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which snapped his streak of 663 consecutive starts, longest among active drivers. But he tested negative both Monday and Tuesday and was cleared by NASCAR to race again this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
That first negative test sent his constantly changing emotions to a different level.
“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 Friday. “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,” he added. “I feel like I am more on the optimistic side of things and out of the dark head space that I was in and moving in the right direction.”
Johnson is scheduled to retire from full-time NASCAR racing at the end of this season and had never missed a race in his 19-year Cup career before sitting out the Brickyard 400. The 44-year-old was required to have two negative COVID-19 tests in a 24-hour span and be cleared by a doctor to return to racing.
NASCAR approved him to return to the No. 48 Chevrolet on Wednesday. He is 15th in the Cup standings, just inside the playoff cutoff mark, and he received a waiver for the championship race should he qualify.
He’s eager to get back to work after an emotional week with is family.
“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,” Johnson said. “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.”
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