DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Immediately after the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Corvette Racing announced that winning GTLM driver Antonio Garcia had tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as part of international travel protocols.
According to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship statistics, Garcia was in the car for nearly eight hours during the race that started at 3:40 p.m. ET Saturday.
Garcia, who lives in his native Spain, handed off the No. 3 Corvette to teammate Jordan Taylor for the final time shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, and the car took the victory in the GTLM division. The team of Taylor’s father, Wayne, won the overall title in the Rolex 24 for the third consecutive year.
Garcia was the second driver in two days to be announced as testing positive for COVID-19. Alegra Motorsports made a last-minute change Saturday in its No. 28 Mercedes-AMG GT3 after Michael de Quesada tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Mike Skeen.
“As part of international COVID travel protocols, all drivers and team members traveling in and out of the U.S. are required to take a COVID test before and after any race activities,” the Corvette Racing statement read. “While Antonio Garcia tested negative in preparation for his arrival for the Rolex 24, we have received notice that he has now tested positive in preparation to depart the country.
“He was immediately pulled from competition upon notification of the positive test result and, although he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, will no longer participate in any additional race activities at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Upon consulting with IMSA and its Event Operations Protocols, the series determined Corvette Racing met all conditions under the IMSA event protocols that allowed it to compete in a safe and responsible manner. We have notified crew members and others who had contact with Antonio and will conduct testing with racing team members after 72 hours, per CDC guidelines.”
In quotes provided Sunday night by Corvette Racing, Garcia said he previously had contracted COVID-19 during the offseason.
“This is both one of the best days of my career but also one of the most frustrating and disappointing,” said Garcia, who explained in a tweet why he hadn’t disclosed his previous diagnosis. “I did have COVID in late December with some symptoms. I isolated until I fully recovered, and followed all Spanish and CDC protocols to be cleared for traveling.
“It’s frustrating but there are protocols that are in place for this. It’s painful not to be able to celebrate with Jordan, Nicky and the rest of the team. We worked so hard over the past months and weeks to achieve an endurance win like the Rolex 24.”
We won Daytona 24!!
It was a very difficult month. I lost my biggest fan, my grandfather (98) two weeks ago, and on Wednesday Adrián Campos, who was like a father for me.
They would’ve been so happy…
Thanks #Jordan & #Nicky to help me out achieving this victory for them🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/f8kYKJCXMG
— Antonio García (@AntonioGarcia_3) February 1, 2021
In a postrace news conference after tweeting from the victory lane celebration, Jordan Taylor said he “wasn’t too concerned” that the news of Garcia’s positive would affect the team finishing the race.
“Corvette Racing and Pratt and Miller take safety and health very seriously, so the protocols that we have are super serious,” he said. “The drivers don’t really get to interact even in a 24-hour (race), I didn’t even see Nicky all race long. And pretty much just passed the car off to the next guy and see each other after the race.
“So for me and Antonio, I saw him before the race, and that was the last time. Even then we’re always social distancing. We’re always taking the correct protocols. Surface to surface, we’re wearing gloves, balclavas, helmets in the car, so nothing in the car could be at risk for us. So for us, we didn’t have too much concern. We took the lead from IMSA and NASCAR to trust ourselves. We’re here to compete. They gave us this platform to race and to be here. The last thing we want to do is break their protocols and do something unsafe and unhealthy. ”
Taylor’s teammate, Dutch driver Nicky Catsburg, said he also had tested negative Saturday and would do another test Monday before heading to Europe.
“I feel safe and never felt under any threat from his positive result,” Catsburg said.
Asked whether he would be under mandatory quarantine, Taylor said he “hadn’t heard the correct protocol” but planned to get tested again and also quarantine at his Orlando, Florida-area home, where he lives next door to his father.
“I’m fine just to go sit at my house for as long as it takes and caress my Rolex. But I’ll get tested. I’ll make sure I’m safe. I just live with my dog, and I don’t think dogs get COVID right now. We’ll be all right.
“Every year after the Rolex, the tradition is our family gets pizza together. I think that one will be broken this year, which is unfortunate since we both won, but better be safe than sorry. I’ll definitely go home and celebrate in quiet and private and make sure I’m healthy and safe and go knock on my parents’ door next door to me and congratulate them when I’m all clear.”
Taylor said Corvette Racing drivers sometimes are in the same room during at-track debriefs “but not extended periods of time. We wear our masks, everyone sanitizes entering and exiting trailers, so safety is a huge concern. When we meet with our engineers, it’s super brief. It’s actually kind of odd how little interaction there has been with our engineers. A lot of it is just via text and email and exchanges like that. We try to get a couple of quick meetings throughout the weekend in person, but even that is quick with masks.”
YEEHAW!! We won the Rolex 24! Thank you @CorvetteRacing, @AntonioGarcia_3 , and @nickcatsburg for an absolutely perfect day. Sorry we couldn’t have Antonio on the podium with us, but we’ll be celebrating together in no time! #Corvette #Rolex24 pic.twitter.com/FRJdV472sC
— Jordan Taylor (@jordan10taylor) January 31, 2021
In a statement, IMSA said that “following the guidelines outlined in the Event Operations Protocols manual, Corvette Racing alerted IMSA that driver Antonio Garcia tested positive for COVID-19. We wish Antonio well in his recovery.”
According to protocols for IMSA and NASCAR (the parent company of IMSA), a positive test for a team member or driver leads to an immediate quarantine and removal from the property, as well as contact tracing to determine if anyone else needs to be quarantined.
According to the Event Operations Protocols distributed to Rolex 24 teams, IMSA said it would rapidly notify public health officials and others potentially impacted by a suspected COVID-19 case, in accordance with state and local mandates.
Garcia and Taylor won the GTLM championship last season. The team’s victory Sunday was on the 20-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sharing the No. 3 Corvette.