After two negative COVID-19 tests, Jimmie Johnson cleared to race

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After missing last weekend’s Brickyard 400 because of a positive COVID-19 test, Jimmie Johnson medically has been cleared to return to competition, Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday morning.

Johnson will drive his No. 48 Chevrolet in Sunday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Johnson tested negative twice this week – on Monday and Tuesday – and was cleared by his physician Tuesday evening in accordance with NASCAR guidelines. A Hendrick release said Johnson never experienced symptoms.

Justin Allgaier drove the No. 48 in the Brickyard 400 and finished 37th after being involved in an early crash on pit road.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” Johnson said in a team release. “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.”

Hendrick Motorsports said four crew members were tested for COVID-19 after Johnson’s positive result. All four had negative results.

The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday’s race.

Johnson’s positive test was announced last Friday, making him the first NASCAR driver to test positive for COVID-19. Johnson was tested last Friday after his wife’s Wednesday test returned positive.

Sunday’s Brickyard 400 was the first Cup race the seven-time champion has missed in his full-time career, which began in 2002.

Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the playoff grid after missing Sunday’s race.

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

President Trump tweets about Bubba Wallace

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday morning about Bubba Wallace, asking if the only Black driver racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series had apologized for what the President called “another hoax.”

Although not specifically referencing what the FBI described as a noose found in Wallace’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway, Trump references how drivers and NASCAR officials stood behind Wallace during pre-race ceremonies before the June 21 race.

Trump, who gave the command to begin the Daytona 500 in February and his motorcade led the field on to the track, tweeted: “Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

The FBI determined that no hate crime was committed against Wallace because evidence showed that the garage tie-down rope was fashioned as a noose in October 2019 and no one could have known that Wallace’s team would occupy that stall eight months later. The rope in Wallace’s stall was the only one fashioned as noose.

The noose was discovered by a crew member of Wallace’s team. Because of NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols, drivers are not allowed in the garage area.

Wallace was informed of the noose by NASCAR President Steve Phelps. NASCAR’s investigation did not determine who fashioned the rope in that manner or why.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson told drivers in a group chat that he planned to stand with Wallace during the national anthem before the Talladega race to show his support for Wallace. Former champion Kevin Harvick suggested that drivers push Wallace’s car from his spot in the starting grid to the front of the field.

Drivers did that and stood with Wallace for the invocation and national anthem. Many hugged him before the race. Richard Petty, who had not attended a race since NASCAR resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, stood with Wallace. After the drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the grid, Wallace climbed from the car and was overcome by emotion. Petty comforted Wallace by putting his arm around the driver.

NASCAR issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.

NASCAR entry lists for Kentucky Speedway

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Following the race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NASCAR continues its season with a visit to Kentucky Speedway.

All three national series will be in action at the 1.5-mile track. The Xfinity Series holds a doubleheader to start the weekend.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the weekend.

Cup – Quaker State 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Jimmie Johnson has been medically cleared to compete after testing negative for COVID-19 twice.

No driver is listed for Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet.

JJ Yeley is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 27 Ford.

Kurt Busch won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity race No. 1 – Shady Rays 200 (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Brett Moffitt is entered in Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is entered in SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

Jeb Burton is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

No driver is listed on DGM Racing’s No. 36 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity race No. 2  – Alsco 300 (8 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Daniel Hemric is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Cole Custer won this race last year over Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Trucks – Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 (6 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Forty trucks are entered.

Ryan Truex is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

Natalie Decker is listed for Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet. Decker missed the last race at Pocono due to a hospitalization. NBC Sports has reached out to the team to confirm that she’s been medically cleared to race.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Kevin Harvick powers to Brickyard 400 win in overtime

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick pulled away on an overtime restart to win his second consecutive Brickyard 400 and third in his career Sunday night at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Harvick inherited the lead after Denny Hamlin blew a tire and crashed while leading with less than 10 laps left. The victory is Harvick’s fourth of the season and 53rd of his career. He previously won at Indianapolis in 2003 and 2019.

“This is like living out your childhood dream, being able to race and win here,” Harvick said. “I know how many times we’ve had fast cars here, come out the other end.  Now to have won it back‑to‑back, three times, is something that’s a little bit surreal. I kind of have to just laugh about it, think back to all of those times that you told somebody you were going to go win the Indy 500, race IndyCar, whatever the case may be. Now you’re in a stockcar, 20 years into your career, still going strong.”

Matt Kenseth finished second for his best finish since returning to the series in place of Kyle Larson at Chip Ganassi Racing. Kenseth was followed by Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and rookie Cole Custer, who gave Harvick the push on the restart.

MORE: Race results 

Hamlin appeared headed for his first Brickyard 400 win until he brought out the caution on Lap 155. A right front tire went down in Turn 1 as he led.  He was the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to crash after a tire went down. Erik Jones was eliminated earlier in the race

“Just didn’t work out for us today,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “I had a fast car obviously. Was stretching it out there, but wasn’t pushing the left front (tire) at all. It’s kind of like roulette. Whether you get one that’s going to stay together or not and mine didn’t and you saw the end result.”

Said Harvick: “We weren’t going to get by him unless he made a huge mistake.”

Harvick then had to hold off Kenseth on an overtime restart after getting a timely push from Custer.

“We were clear before we got to Turn 1,” Harvick said. “At that point you have clean air, and those guys were side‑by‑side. We were able to break away right there. Definitely Cole was a huge part of helping us win this race at the end.”

Harvick’s win gave Stewart-Haas Racing a sweep of the NASCAR portion of this historic weekend at Indy that saw the series share the facility with the NTT IndyCar Series. SHR’s Chase Briscoe won Saturday’s Xfinity race on the road course.

Earlier in the race, Zach Price, rear tire changer for Ryan Blaney‘s team, was transported to a local hospital after he was struck by Brennan Poole‘s car on pit road. The incident happened as several cars crashed on pit road during the competition caution on Lap 14. Price gave a thumbs up while on a stretcher before he was loaded into an ambulance. He was transported to a local hospital. Those in the crash included Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Allgaier, who was driving in place of Jimmie Johnson because Johnson has contracted COVID-19.

The race started about an hour late because of lightning within an 8-mile radius of the speedway.

STAGE 1 WINNER: William Byron

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Aric Almirola’s third-place finish marked his fifth consecutive top-five finish. … Brad Keselowski finished fourth, marking his third top-four finish at Indy in the last four years. … Cole Custer finished fifth, becoming the first rookie to place in the top five at Indy since Juan Pablo Montoya did so in 2007.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Martin Truex Jr. and Justin Allgaier were all eliminated because of a crash on pit road early in the race that injured a member of Ryan Blaney’s pit crew.

NOTABLE: Sunday marked the first time since 1958 that Daytona did not host a Cup race on or near July 4.

NEXT RACE: The series races at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 12 at Kentucky Speedway.