Corey LaJoie out of Michigan Cup race for COVID-19 protocols; replaced by Josh Berry

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Josh Berry will drive in Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway for Spire Motorsports after COVID-19 protocols sidelined Corey LaJoie from the No. 7 Chevrolet.

During a Thursday afternoon appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, LaJoie said he was in a mandatory seven-day quarantine for contact tracing after a positive COVID-19 test for someone who was in studio for the Monday afternoon taping of LaJoie’s podcast, “Stacking Pennies.”

Under NASCAR policy, an unvaccinated person who has a close contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 must undergo a mandatory seven-day quarantine. With no symptoms and a negative test on Day 5, they can return. (Or after a 10-day quarantine with no test and no symptoms.)

For a vaccinated person, there is no mandatory quarantine, but a close contact would require a negative test within three to five days to clear a return to the garage.

So in a case such as LaJoie’s with exposure to a close contact Monday, a vaccinated person would be cleared for a return to the garage at Michigan with a negative test Thursday, Friday or Saturday (the three- to five-day window after the close contact).

“Regardless of if I have symptoms or a negative test, it’s an automatic seven-day quarantine, which is frustrating,” said LaJoie, who didn’t disclose (and wasn’t asked) whether he had been vaccinated. “It sucks, and it stinks. … 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 because I want to be behind the wheel of that 7 car regardless. On the other hand, I know NASCAR has to do what they have to do, and they don’t show bias.”

Berry will make his second start for Spire after making his Cup debut in the May 16 race at Dover International Speedway, finishing 30th in the No. 77 Chevrolet. Berry was a late substitution at Dover for Justin Haley, who also was sidelined by COVID-19 protocols.

It already has been a busy week for the Hendersonville, Tennessee, native, who was announced Wednesday morning as a replacement for Michael Annett in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Michigan. Annett, who drives the No. 1 Chevy for JR Motorsports, will miss his fourth race this season while recovering from leg surgery.

Before then, Berry is also scheduled to compete in Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway for Rackley W.A.R.

Berry, who has driven Late Models for JRM the past decade, was named Tuesday as a full-time Xfinity driver with the team for the 2022 season. Running a partial schedule for JRM and Jordan Anderson this year, Berry has four top fives and nine top 10s in 16 starts, including his first career victory in Xfinity (April 11 at Martinsville Speedway).

He won the 2020 NASCAR Weekly Series national championship before earning his part-time shot at the Xfinity Series. He made seven Xfinity starts from 2014-17.

“I’m just a local short track racer, so saying this is a dream come true seems like an understatement,” Berry said. “I’m so grateful to Dale, Kelley, L.W. [Miller] and everyone at JR Motorsports. They have always believed in me. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m ready and focused on 2022.”

Corey LaJoie, who tweeted about COVID-19 protocols keeping him out of Michigan, has one top 10 in 24 starts this season and is ranked 29th in points. He had started 97 consecutive races in Cup dating back to the 2018 season finale. He has been a full-time driver since the 2019 season.

LaJoie joins Haley, Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson among the drivers to be sidelined from a Cup race because of COVID-19 since last season.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in April that while drivers were being asked to promote vaccination, NASCAR wouldn’t mandate vaccinations for its competitors.

NASCAR announced several adjustments Tuesday to COVID-19 protocols for Michigan amid the spread of the Delta variant. Among the new restrictions, guests no longer are permitted inside team haulers or garage stalls, and access to the grid is being limited only to NASCAR-licensed individuals.

During his SiriusXM appearance, LaJoie said “I do think people could probably learn from this particular circumstance and be a little more cautious.”

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.