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


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.”

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.

NASCAR Friday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s new Cup Series aerodynamic package for short tracks and road courses will be tested in competition on a road circuit for the first time this weekend as the tour stops at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

All three major national series will be in action at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn track this weekend. The schedule begins Friday with practice for all three series and qualifying for Xfinity and Trucks.

MORE: Drivers say North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will be challenging

The Friday practice was added for Cup teams because of the new competition package, providing 50 minutes of on-track time for adjustments. Teams also will be racing with a new tire compound this weekend.

Chase Elliott (2021) and Ross Chastain (2022) are winners from the previous Cup races at COTA. Elliott won the inaugural event in a race shortened by rain, and Chastain won after a last-lap battle with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman. The victory was Chastain’s first in the series.

A look at Friday’s schedule:

Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning. Mostly sunny later. High of 87 with an 80% chance of rain.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)