NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols sideline LaJoie for Michigan

Sports

Corey LaJoie will miss Sunday’s race at Michigan because of NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols. The driver said Thursday he does not have the virus.

LaJoie posted “Protocols” on Twitter when Spire Motorsports announced that Josh Berry will replace him in the No. 7 Chevrolet at Michigan.

In a laterappearance on SiriusXM NASCARRadio, LaJoie said he was in a mandatory seven-day quarantine for contact tracing after someone else tested positive who had been in studio with LaJoie at the start of the week to tape LaJoie’s podcast.

The NASCAR policy states any unvaccinated person who has a close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must undergo a mandatory seven-day quarantine. They can return with no symptoms and a negative test on Day 5.

There is no mandatory quarantine for a vaccinated person but a close contact would require a negative test within three to five days to clear a return to the track.

LaJoie did not disclose if he was vaccinated, but it is not required by NASCAR and the series has said there is little it can do beyond urging competitors to get the jab.

“I’m not going to tell anyone else what their risk aversion should be,” he said. “I feel plenty healthy, my immune system is capable of fighting off anything. I work out as hard as anybody. I eat healthy. That’s kind of where I stand.”

LaJoie is the fourth Cup driver since the start of the pandemic to miss a race because of COVID protocols. Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon both missed races last season before the vaccine was available; LaJoie and Haley were both ruled out after the vaccine became available.

LaJoie shared his frustration over the protocols during his call to Sirius.

“Regardless of if I have symptoms or a negative test, it’s an automatic seven-day quarantine, which is frustrating,” LaJoie said. “I was in unfortunate circumstances, and I don’t get to do my job this weekend. I wish I had the opportunity to prove I’m not carrying or not transmitting or whatever. I don’t even get the opportunity to do that for what we’re working with, so that’s what really has me irritated.

“On the other hand, I know NASCAR has to do what they have to do, and they don’t show bias.”

LaJoie has one top-10 finish this season and is 29th in the Cup Series standings.

Berry, meanwhile, was announced as a full-time Xfinity Series driver next season for JR Motorsports. The 30-year-old has run a limited schedule with JRM this year and scored his first career victory at Martinsville in April. He was scheduled to replace Michael Annett at Michigan in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

Berry has one career Cup start, earlier this season for Spire at Dover.

NASCAR this week tightened its protocols on the advice of its consulting physicians as cases of COVID-19 have spiked across the country. Only essential personnel are permitted to travel to the track, guest access was cut in the garage and on the starting grid, and masks are now mandatory in all indoor spaces.

Drivers are prohibited from visiting suites and their movement routes will be adjusted to avoid casual interactions with fans. The honorary pace car driver, guest pace car rides and grand marshal car passengers have all been suspended.

NASCAR was one of the first major sports to resume competition last year at the start of the pandemic and its tight protocols made it the first sport to complete a full season. The protocols were eased beginning in May, but mandatory mask wearing was reinstated earlier this month.

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