NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson granted a playoff waiver

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Pocono, NASCAR, Cup Series (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, Pocono, NASCAR, Cup Series (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Jimmie Johnson is out indefinitely after testing positive for COVID-19, but NASCAR has granted the seven-time Cup Series champion a playoff waiver.

While seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will not compete in this Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, marking his first missed start since he became a full-time driver in 2002, he has been granted a playoff waiver.

“Jimmie is a true battle-tested champion, and we wish him well in his recovery,” NASCAR said in a release. “NASCAR has granted Jimmie a playoff waiver, and we look forward to his return as he races for an eighth NASCAR Cup Series championship.”

Johnson currently sits in 12th place in the championship standings, 63 points above the playoff cut line, through the first 15 races of the season.

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While a playoff waiver does not guarantee that he will qualify for the playoffs, it does mean that even though he won’t have competed in each of the 26 regular season races, he will still be playoff eligible if he wins a race and finishes the regular season in the top 30 in the standings or if he is able to secure one of the 16 playoff spots based on his point total.

Johnson can return behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet provided that he produces two negative COVID-19 test results at least 24 hours apart from one another and receives clearance by his physician.

In the meantime, it is JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier, the designated reserve driver for Hendrick Motorsports, who is set to pilot the #48 Chevrolet, becoming the first driver other than Johnson to drive the #48 car since Trevor Boys drove the #48 Pontiac for Hylton Motorsports in one race during the 1993 season.

Allgaier hasn’t competed in a Cup Series race since 2016, and he has never driven for Hendrick Motorsports. Team owner Rick Hendrick co-owns JR Motorsports.

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Following this weekend, the next race on the Cup Series schedule it the Quaker State 400, which is scheduled to take place at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday, July 12 and is the earliest race for which the 44-year-old Johnson could return. This race is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.