Jimmie Johnson Says NASCAR's Return Amid COVID-19 'Nutty, to Say the Least'

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 8, 2020

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 08: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR's return to the track is only days away with the Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway set for May 17, the organization's first live action in months.

When the green flag drops, drivers will end a 70-day hiatus with zero practice and qualifying sessions and without any fans in attendance to witness the race.

Speaking to ESPN's Marty & McGee on SEC Network, Jimmie Johnson acknowledged how different the upcoming events will feel.

"It's going to be nutty, to say the least," Johnson said.

Darlington's 400-mile event kicks off a wave of four Cup Series races in 11 days—unlike anything NASCAR drivers have been asked to do in the past.

It makes for an unusual farewell season for Johnson as he prepares for retirement. This year was supposed to act as a chance to thank fans for their support over a career that has seen him rack up seven titles. Instead, Johnson will only be allowed near his team and rival drivers.

He told Marty & McGee:

"It's been complicated. At times I feel the fans, my fans specifically, are missing out on something, you know? Sure, we're going back racing, but we probably aren't hitting all the tracks we intended to ... but for my own accord, and for my family, it's been a nice window into what the future will be like, and what 2021 will be like. And it's been nice. I really have enjoyed being around."

Johnson said his time self-isolating with his family has only reinforced his desire to call it a career as a full-time driver for NASCAR. He may look to participate in IndyCar and sports car events, but he'll stay on the sidelines for the most part.

For now, he's focused on the upcoming races—two at Darlington and two at Charlotte Motor Speedway—and the opportunity to compete in a high-level contest that doesn't take place virtually, though NASCAR's iRacing series has kept him engaged and helped him prepare for the race May 17.