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IMSA driver Felipe Nasr tests positive for COVID-19; will miss Daytona

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Felipe Nasr is out of IMSA’s return at Daytona International Speedway after testing positive for COVID-19, his team announced Friday morning.

Action Express will replace Nasr with Gabby Chaves to team with Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi this weekend at Daytona, which will mark IMSA’s first race since the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The series had been on hiatus during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return Saturday with the WeatherTech 240 at Daytona.

Nasr said in a release that he wasn’t feeling right while driving to Daytona Beach to Miami and went for a test Thursday that was positive. He had been living in Miami for the past month after arriving in late May from his home in Brazil because of concerns about travel restrictions.

Felipe Nasr (IMSA)

“I felt I had been doing everything correctly,” Nasr said in the release. “I have been in Miami for about a month, staying away from anyone in racing. Before I went to the track or met with my team or anyone in motorsports, I went and got tested and, unfortunately, I tested positive.

“I want to keep everyone on the Whelen Engineering/Action Express team and those around the series safe. I am going back to Miami to quarantine. Hopefully, I will recover quickly, and my doctors can clear me to return to racing soon. For now, I will follow all instructions, guidelines and recommendations from my medical team, my race team, and the IMSA Officials.”

During a Zoom call with the media last Friday, Derani, a Brazilian who also has been living in Miami, said he’d been training for the race with Nasr, and he posted a tweet last month of a photo on a boat with Nasr and former IMSA driver Christian Fittipaldi.

The team has told IMSA officials that it had been more than 14 days since Derani and Nasr had been within 6 feet of each other. According to IMSA, Action Express said the drivers’ last interaction was on June 10 (which is the date on Derani’s tweet from the boat).

Asked by NBCSports.com whether Derani or other team members also would be tested for COVID-19, an Action Express spokesman referred questions to IMSA.

In a statement, IMSA president John Doonan said, “We share Felipe’s disappointment that he will not be able to join his Action Express Racing teammates this weekend in Daytona. He followed all necessary steps, sought medical attention when he wasn’t feeling well and has not been to the racetrack. He has had no direct interaction with any members of his team or any other participants in this weekend’s race. He is a champion of our sport and we expect that he will attack this virus with the same spirit that made him a champion.”

IMSA doesn’t test for COVID-19. But drivers, team members and anyone else entering Daytona International Speedway this weekend will undergo screening that includes a temperature check and completing a health questionnaire that includes a question about being within 6 feet for at least 5 minutes of a person for who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson said in the team’s release that Nasr had not been to the track and would avoid any contact with the public until being cleared.

“All of us at Action Express were stunned when we heard that our friend and teammate, Felipe Nasr, has tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday,” Nelson said in a release.  “We are certainly going to miss having him competing in our Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R on Saturday at Daytona. But, more importantly, he is a great friend to us all and we know he will fight hard to beat this virus the same way he fights for trophies on the racetracks. We wish him a speedy recovery.”

Nasr, 27, has been running full time in IMSA since 2018, winning the prototype championship as a rookie. He also finished second in the DPi standings last season and has three career victories in the class.

Prior to IMSA, the Brazilian raced in Formula One from 2015-16.

Here’s the release from the team:

DENVER, N.C. (July 2, 2020) – Gabby Chaves will replace Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R for this weekend’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship WeatherTech Daytona 240 July 3-4.

Nasr tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is heading back to Miami to quarantine.

“I’ve been waiting so long for this weekend to get back to racing,” Nasr said. “I felt I had been doing everything correctly. I have been in Miami for about a month, staying away from anyone in racing. Yesterday as I was driving to Daytona, I wasn’t feeling just right. So, before I went to the track or met with my team or anyone in motorsports, I went and got tested and, unfortunately, I tested positive. I want to keep everyone on the Whelen Engineering/Action Express team and those around the series safe. I am going back to Miami to quarantine. Hopefully, I will recover quickly, and my doctors can clear me to return to racing soon. For now, I will follow all instructions, guidelines and recommendations from my medical team, my race team, and the IMSA Officials.”

“All of us at Action Express were stunned when we heard that our friend and teammate, Felipe Nasr, has tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday,” Gary Nelson, Action Express Racing, team manager said.  “We are certainly going to miss having him competing in our Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R on Saturday at Daytona. But, more importantly, he is a great friend to us all and we know he will fight hard to beat this virus the same way he fights for trophies on the racetracks. We wish him a speedy recovery. Felipe has not been to the track and will avoid any contact with the public until he has been cleared by his medical team.

“We made the quick decision to bring in Gabby Chaves who is familiar with our team to partner with Pipo Derani this weekend. We will get Felipe ready to hopefully join us again at Sebring in 15 days.”

Gabby Chaves drove for the team in 2018 at Petit Le Mans, finishing eighth.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.