The dust had yet to settle over the 2021 running of the Rolex 24 endurance race at Daytona International Speedway when Corvette Racing announced that Antonio Garcia, one of its race-winning drivers, tested positive for COVID-19.
The full statement from Corvette reads as follows:
As part of international COVID travel protocols, all drivers and team members traveling in and out of the US are required to take a COVID test before and after any race activities. While Antonio Garcia tested negative in preparation for his arrival for the Roles 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.
So, basically, Garcia tested negative for COVID-19 prior to the Rolex 24 and was not tested again after arriving in the country. During that time, Garcia contracted COVID-19 and was unaware until testing after the event.
Garcia’s final stint ended at roughly nine in the morning Eastern time, which would be approximately seven hours before the race ended. He did manage to compete for eight hours, per IMSA stint analysis, which means that he competed long enough for the car to legally retain its win.
Corvette ran two GTLM machines at the Rolex 24, with Garcia taking part in the event in the No. 3 machine. He shared the car with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg. The No. 4 car was piloted by Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, and Alexander Sims.
This isn’t a great look for the series, the race, or the team, and it definitely dulls the celebratory mood of the Corvette team. This is, unfortunately, how a superspreader event takes place. How IMSA handles this situation remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find more rigorous testing protocol implemented before the 12 Hours of Sebring on the March 17-20 weekend.