IMSA.com Contributor, Jeff Olson, Kicks off a New Series of Weekly Editorial Columns
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After he tested positive for COVID-19 in July, Felipe Nasr was forced to miss a race at Daytona International Speedway. It wasn’t just any race, either. It was the first race after the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship had shut down for more than four months to deal with the virus.
It was devastating to Nasr emotionally, all but ruining any chance of winning another championship. But it also served as motivation to return to Sebring two weeks later for the next race of a schedule that had been overturned and retooled because of the virus.
He wanted normal, but nothing about the 2020 season was normal.
"The hard part wasn’t just missing the race," Nasr said in July. "I had to come back home and go through all of those emotions. … I went through a lot of emotions, but the day that I tested positive, I put it in my mind that I wanted to be back at Sebring. I told myself every day, ‘I want to be back at Sebring.’ I just kept that energy going."
Nasr followed IMSA protocol, tested negative in time to rejoin the series for the next race at Sebring International Raceway, and teamed with Pipo Derani for a noteworthy victory.
Nasr’s experience is analogous to IMSA in its response to the unforeseen of 2020. Because of decisive, quick and appropriate action, the season was able to resume and conclude. It wasn’t always under ideal circumstances, but the show went on.
In the end, it mattered.
Sports are our comfort, our inspiration and our pastime. They bring people together, give us entertainment and provide a cause. The complicated effort to get the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season back in order gave fans some convention during an unconventional time.
Without the resumption of the season, fans would’ve missed Helio Castroneves’ blind drive through the rain at Road America. They would’ve missed a rousing Motul Petit Le Mans victory by Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande made possible by a dramatic late-race skirmish between Derani and Ricky Taylor while battling for the lead. They would’ve missed Castroneves and Taylor rallying to the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) championship by winning four of the final six races. They would’ve missed the touching farewell to Oliver Gavin at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in November.
The same uncertainties about the virus will carry into 2021. The situation isn’t getting better at the moment, but it will someday. In the meantime, the people who operate and participate in IMSA continue to balance safety and racing delicately and appropriately.
As we prepare for engines to fire once again at Daytona in a few weeks for the 2021 season, keep in mind what went into making it happen. The planning, the cooperation, the details. Appreciate what went into it, then enjoy it once again.
This will get better. But right now, under these distressing circumstances, it’s comforting to know that racing is still here. In whatever form it takes for you – entertainment, business, career, hobby, obsession – racing is finding its way through.
And that alone is cause for hope.