NASCAR's COVID-19 protocols sideline LaJoie for Michigan

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Corey LaJoie will miss Sunday's race at Michigan because of NASCAR's COVID-19 protocols.

LaJoie posted “Protocols” on Twitter in what appeared to be clarification that he has not tested positive for COVID-19 and was missing the race because of NASCAR's pandemic rules. Spire Motorsports said Thursday that Josh Berry will replace LaJoie in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

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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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

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