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Max Papis’ return cut short after positive COVID-19 test

Max Papis will not compete in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course after testing positive for COVID-19, Rick Ware Racing announced Thursday.

Papis was scheduled to drive the No. 17 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet in what would’ve been his first NASCAR national series start 2013. He would have competed after handling his regular duties as an IndyCar race steward for Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series race.

In a Twitter video posted later on Thursday, Papis explained that after waking up with a “bit of a runny nose and a headache,” he went for a rapid COVID-19 test out of precaution.

“Despite being double-vaccinated, I tested positive,” said Papis, who added that he felt “quite okay - nothing to worry about” and would quarantine.

J.J. Yeley will drive the No. 17 entry in Papis’ absence on Saturday.

“We were so excited to see the return of Max Papis after our conversation in Nashville last weekend,” team owner Rick Ware said in a release. “We knew he would be competitive at the legendary Brickyard with the extensive history he has at the track. I hope Max has a speedy recovery from COVID-19.

“We were lucky enough to have JJ on hand because he is driving the #51 Nurtec ODT (Rimegepant) midget at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Dirt Track event on (Wednesday). We have all the confidence in the world that JJ will be competitive in the Nurtec ODT (Rimegepant) Chevrolet this Saturday.”

Yeley has made five Xfinity starts this season in RWR’s No. 17 entry. His top finish is 12th from February at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He also has made five Cup starts this season for RWR.

“It’s always an unfortunate event when another driver has to be taken out of the car,” Yeley said in the same release. “I have a great respect for Max and all that he has done for the motorsports world. I will try my best to get the Nurtec ODT (Rimegepant) car in the show and compete on Saturday.”

Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning at 10:05 a.m. ET. The Pennzoil 150 is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET. Saturday on NBCSN.