By Toby Christie (Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie)
Corey LaJoie should be regarded as one of the most talented up-and-coming drivers in NASCAR. He won an impressive five races in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series in 2012, and it seemed like his career was poised for lift off. However, finding funding for a full-time ride has been tough sledding in the six years since for the 27-year-old third-generation NASCAR driver.
LaJoie nearly completed a full season with BK Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017, and for 2018 the Concord, NC native was on the move to TriStar Motorsports to share driving the No. 72 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with Cole Whitt.
To say that LaJoie’s 2018 season was mentally frustrating would be an understatement.
In three of LaJoie’s first four starts on the year, LaJoie’s No. 72 machine would end the day in the garage area with expired power plants. The most frustrating case came in the Daytona 500, when LaJoie’s day ended after going up in smoke after just eight laps.
In all, LaJoie finished the year with five mechanical failures in 23 starts.
However, when LaJoie was afforded a car that made it to the finish, he was able to muster some decent finishes for the No. 72 team.
LaJoie recorded three top-25 finishes on the season, his best effort coming at Las Vegas – the first race in the 2018 Playoffs – where he finished 16th. LaJoie took to Twitter to showcase how proud he was of his finish with his underdog team.
As we ring in a new year, there are tides of change for LaJoie going forward.
The young driver got married in the off season to his best friend and girlfriend since 2013, Kelly Cassidy. Additionally, he will be moving full-time to the No. 32 Ford Mustang for GoFas Racing. This is the team that has sparked the career of Matt DiBenedetto over the last few seasons, so perhaps this will be where LaJoie can get things back on track.
Currently, the No. 32 team has about 10 races left to find sponsorship for 2019, but they are in a much better position sponsorship-wise than they usually are at this point.
If you recall, DiBenedetto looked to be getting parked when at the final moment he found sponsorship from mobile game maker Zynga as well as getting sponsorship from fellow competitor Denny Hamlin and analyst and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Darrell Waltrip.
If LaJoie can fill out the slate of sponsorship for the whole season he should have a chance to put up as good of – or better numbers – than what DiBenedetto did during his time at GoFas. So far we know that CorvetteParts.net will for sure be back with the team for some races in 2019, and that LaJoie has brought Schluter Systems with him from TriStar Motorsports.
Randy Cox will also be back atop the pit box for the team this season and he has reason to be licking his chops.
The team also has announced that they have formed a brand new partnership with Team Penske, which will include the team utilizing a pit crew from the super team. This will certainly help them be much more effective on pit road.
GoFas Racing has brought speed to the restrictor plate race tracks in recent years and that should provide the best shot at LaJoie pulling off a Cinderella story victory, but overall, he will benefit from an all-around performance enhancement from what his old team had.
2019 is shaping up to be LaJoie’s best opportunity to showcase his talents in the Cup Series level so far. I expect the driver to secure his first-career top-10 finish at some point in the year.