Austin Dillon Cleared to Return to Racing at Dover

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 09: Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway on February 9, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Austin Dillon has been medically cleared to return to racing in time for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader at Dover International Speedway. Richard Childress Racing officials made the announcement Thursday. A NASCAR spokesperson also confirmed Dillon has been cleared to return to the track.

Dillon missed last Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course after revealing a positive test for COVID-19. Kaz Grala, a part-time Xfinity Series driver, substituted for Dillon and drove the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish in Sunday’s Go Bowling 235.

Dillon was required to receive two negative COVID-19 test results taken at least 24 hours as a condition for his return. He was also required to have written clearance to resume racing activity from his personal physician.

The team sent out a statement Thursday evening: “Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Dillon will return to competition for this weekend’s doubleheader at Dover International Speedway. Dillon, who originally tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday morning, August 15 and missed the NASCAR Cup Series race at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, has worked with NASCAR, his primary care physician and RCR’s health partners at Wake-Forest Baptist Health, and has had two negative COVID-19 test results at least 24 hours apart. We commend NASCAR for their efforts in providing a safe environment for all fans and competitors, thank everyone in the industry for their well wishes and enthusiastically welcome Austin Dillon back to competition.”

Dillon is the second driver in NASCAR’s top tier Cup series who has tested positive and forced to set out a race. In July, Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson reported a positive COVID-19 test and missed the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Johnson completed the two negative tests after the Indy weekend and returned to competition the following week.

Brendan Gaughan, who has not raced fulltime since 2017 when he competed in the NASCAR Xfinity series, tested positive on July 10.  He has since been cleared and raced last Sunday at Daytona.

Because he missed last week’s race at Daytona Dillon dropped one position to 18th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, just behind his RCR teammate, rookie Tyler Reddick. Dillon qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs after his July 19 victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Competition officials granted him a medical exemption to retain his playoff eligibility, easing the requirement that he compete in every points-paying event.

Dillon is in his seventh full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has qualified for the postseason field in four of the last five years.

Greg Engle