In his words, Corey LaJoie “went down swinging” last Sunday as he battled Chase Elliott for the win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. LaJoie led seven of the final 10 laps, was passed for the lead by Elliott with two laps to go and lost a shot at the win when Elliott blocked LaJoie’s charge on the final lap.
LaJoie crashed and finished 21st but made a solid run at a win for the first time in his Cup career. Now he wants another swing at it.
“You’re telling yourself that you can do it if you’re in the right opportunity,” LaJoie said Thursday. “A lot of it sometimes feels fabricated, even whether it’s to yourself, and whether your beliefs are that you’re able to drive a race car. You start to question if you can do that, if you’re going to get the chance that we had on Sunday afternoon to win a Winston Cup race.
“I think the biggest feeling I took away over the weekend was just the fact that I can do it and Spire [Motorsports] is capable of doing it on occasion, and I think that’s what we’re all working forward toward -- to try to do that more often.”
In six years of full-time Cup racing, LaJoie, 30, has only one top five -- scored at Atlanta in this year’s spring race. He is one of only five full-time Cup drivers (also Ty Dillon, Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland and Cody Ware) without a career win.
LaJoie has rarely raced in the shadow of the leaders, but Sunday’s run (and the earlier Atlanta race) proved that the Spire team can build a competitive car for the circuit’s bigger tracks.
LaJoie was two laps from a victory Sunday and a possible spot in the playoffs. But, heading into Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m., USA Network), he’s 31st in the Cup standings, one spot below the playoff qualifying line even with a victory.
“We just want to get ourselves back within reach of 30th in points where we can justify the opportunity to send it like we did in Atlanta and potentially chuck a car like we did in Atlanta for the opportunity maybe to get in the playoffs,” he said.
“You have to run 20th before you can run 15th and then you get around 15th before you’re 10th. The natural progression of where we’re going is in that trajectory. You just can’t hit the fast-forward button and get there instantly. So our goals over the next six to seven weeks are to get back into the top 30 in points. We’ve really shot ourselves in the foot over the last two months.”