Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,
The 44-year-old Johnson is the first driver in any NASCAR series to test positive and the news Friday evening cast a shadow over the historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader races coming up Saturday and Sunday. There was no indication any races would be affected.
Hendrick Motorsports said Johnson will not return until he is cleared by a physician. He was tested earlier Friday after his wife, Chani, tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms.
Johnson is asymptomatic.
'‘My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”
Johnson held a Zoom session with reporters to discuss Sunday’s race and an upcoming test of an Indy car on the road course at the fabled venue. He will now miss that test, as well as what was supposed to be his final Brickyard 400. Justin Allgaier will replace him in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
MLS teams delay departure
Toronto FC pushed back its departure to Florida for the MLS is Back Tournament to Saturday, saying more time is needed to complete pre-travel COVID-19 testing.
The MLS team was scheduled to leave by charter Friday. Toronto opens the World Cup-style tournament on July 10 against D.C. United.
The New York Red Bulls also delayed their Friday departure, saying a staff member had produced an inconclusive COVID-19 test result. The Red Bulls said they would reschedule their flight once all the test results were confirmed.
Six players from FC Dallas and one from Columbus Crew SC have already tested positive in the Sunshine State. They have been isolated and are receiving care while the other members of their delegations are in quarantine pending more testing.
Major League Soccer had required teams to arrive in Florida no later than a week before their first game at the tournament, which runs July 8 to Aug. 11 at Disney’s Wide World of Sport Complex in the Orlando area. But issues with test results have caused several delays.
Heat to close training facility
A person with knowledge of the situation said that the Miami Heat closed their training facility after a second player tested positive for coronavirus.
The Heat will have players at the arena over the coming days to satisfy their NBA-mandated testing requirements but will not reopen the gym for individual workouts before leaving for the Disney complex near Orlando on Wednesday, said the person who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no details were announced.
The second player’s identity was not released by the team. Heat guard Derrick Jones Jr. tested positive for coronavirus last week and has been working through the NBA protocols on a return-to-play plan.
China to start soccer season
After an eight-month delay because of the coronavirus, the new Chinese Super League will begin its soccer regular season on July 25.
The league will kick off in the twin hub cities of Suzhou and Dalian in order to minimize travel and risks of infection. Details have yet to be confirmed but it is expected that the league’s 16 teams will be divided into two groups of eight with the winners playing off against each other.
It’s most likely that group stage matches will be held without spectators. A decision will be made whether to allows fans to the latter stages of the season.
AFL teams to leave Victoria
The heartland of Australian rules football will soon become a wasteland of the sport thanks to a spike in COVID-19 infections in the state of Victoria.
The Australian Football League announced that all 10 Victorian-based AFL sides will spend at least 32 days outside their home state as the league attempts to keep its season running with hubs in the states of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales.
Victoria has had 17 consecutive days of double-digit COVID-19 infections, most of them more than 50 a day. There were 66 new cases reported Friday.
Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, is the centerpiece of Aussie rules football. Nearly 100,000 fans annually attend the grand final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.