Johnson to return to NASCAR Cup field for Kentucky after COVID-19 test

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will return to competition this weekend at the Kentucky Speedway after being cleared by his doctors after testing positive for COVID-19

Last week, Johnson announced he had received a positive test result for the strain of coronavirus responsible for the current global pandemic, but did not know at that time how long he had the disease having shown no symptoms.

His Hendrick Motorsports team instead ran Xfinity veteran Justin Allgaier in his stead in the No. 48 car at the Indianapolis round, but his race ended in a multi-car pile-up in the pitlane.

The pitlane crash resulted in Ryan Blaney's tyre changer, Zach Price, to be taken to the infield care centre - and he will miss the Kentucky round as a result.

Hendrick has now announced that Johnson, after receiving negative test results on both Monday and Tuesday, had been cleared to return to racing this weekend.

"My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we've received over the last several days," Johnson said in a statement.

"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."

Sunday's Brickyard 400 was the only race Johnson missed during his diagnosis but it did end his streak of 663 consecutive starts in the Cup Series.

Following Johnson's diagnosis, four Hendrick Motorsports crew members were tested for COVID-19 with all four receiving negative results.

The team had previously implemented detailed procedures to protect the health of its team members.

They include daily COVID-19 screenings at the team facilities; the separation of facility operations and traveling personnel; split work schedules; stringent face covering and social distancing requirements; and an increased level of disinfecting and sanitisation of all work areas.

The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday's event at Kentucky.

Johnson is currently 15th in the driver standings, 46 points above the cutoff for the 2020 series playoffs. NASCAR granted him a medical waiver for missing the Brickyard 400 race.

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