Johnson’s quick return also prompted questions about whether it’s too soon to be back on the track with coronavirus cases spiking nationally.
“I’ve followed the protocol,” Johnson said during a video conference call with reporters Friday, adding other major sports leagues have the same reinstatement program as NASCAR. “It brings a lot of questions as to where I was in the journey after being positive and all of that, so there’s a lot of speculation there.
“I don’t know those answers, and believe me, I’m the most frustrated person out there, especially living in a world of facts that I do. To not have the facts drives me bananas, but I have followed protocol and I’ve been reinstated, so that’s about all I can speak to at this point.”
According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, should isolate for 10 days before it’s safe to be around others.
That’s exactly what Johnson did last weekend at his home in Colorado while watching another driver, Justin Allgaier, take the wheel of his No. 48 Chevrolet for the first time since Johnson, a 20-year veteran on the circuit, began driving the car in Cup competition in late 2001.
Johnson announced this season would be his last as a full-time driver following one of the most decorated careers in NASCAR. Only two other drivers, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, both icons of the sport, have won seven championships in NASCAR’s 72-year history.
“It’s a weird set of events,” Johnson said. “Saturday night trying to go to sleep was probably the most difficult time for me, knowing I wasn’t going be in the car. It was the peak of emotions with missing a race and the consecutive start streak coming to an end, not being in the car, my final year, all the things you can think of.”
Johnson did not show symptoms of the virus that has claimed at least 130,000 lives in the United States, according to data compiled by The Washington Post, with reported infections surging in states such as Texas, Arizona, Florida and California. Johnson’s asymptomatic experience also has fueled the notion that perhaps his original test result was a false positive. Johnson, 44, underwent initial testing after learning last Friday that his wife, Chandra, tested positive following allergy-like symptoms.
“There are a lot of scenarios that can play out, and to go through them and to form an opinion would just be speculating,” said Johnson, proclaiming he feels great physically and that his first reaction was anger over the positive test. “At this point, I just don’t think that’s very intelligent or smart to do.
“I’m super excited. In my head of optimism, boy, what a comeback story, the covid comeback. It would really be a special moment. I’ve always been highly motivated, but it would be really cool to have great success Sunday or certainly in the near future with everything.”