CONCORD, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson will be competing at Kentucky Speedway this weekend after he was cleared to return to competition.
The seven-time Cup Series champion tested negative for novel coronavirus on Monday and Tuesday and was cleared by a physician Tuesday night to return to the track in accordance with NASCAR protocol.
“Obviously, just an interesting week or so to have the positive test and then the two negative tests,” Johnson said Friday morning. “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."
Johnson and his two young daughters got tested last week after his wife, Chandra, experienced allergy-like symptoms and decided to get a test to be cautious. Both her and Johnson's results came back positive. Their daughters tested negative.
Johnson was asymptomatic but still needed to follow NASCAR protocol. He didn't race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a result, marking the first time in his nearly two-decade career that he missed a Cup Series race.
When Johnson received his first negative test, he admitted his initial feeling was anger. He said that reaction was out of not having all the information surrounding his and Chandra's diagnoses, having to miss his first Cup Series race and not having the facts available with his situation.
“I used every cuss word I knew of, and then I think invented a few new ones,” Johnson said. “It was just so weird, the anger, because I’ve been asymptomatic, so anger hits and then speculation in my mind, and it’s like, ‘Wait a second, nothing good can come of this. I don’t know, no one knows — just time to move on.’ Then I got very excited and started looking at the fact that I’ve only missed one race, I’ve still got a good gap above the cutline, and then optimism about, ‘Man, I hope I get that second negative,’ and then I did.
"So, I feel like I’m more on the optimistic side of things and out of the dark head space I was in, and just moving in the right direction and looking forward."
Now Johnson is turning his attention to Sunday's race at Kentucky Speedway, one of the few Cup Series tracks where he has yet to secure a win.
"Kentucky has been one of my top two or three most difficult tracks to compete at," Johnson said, adding that his focus heading into the weekend will remain the same as before. "I hope to conquer the track from that personal standpoint."