Corey LaJoie snagged the first top-five finish of his 169-race NASCAR Cup Series career, but in what looked like a scene out of a movie, as multiple cars in front of him were crashing coming to the checkered flag, LaJoie was able to squeeze through the carnage to record his career-best finish of fifth in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta.
As chaos ensued when Chris Buescher and Justin Haley made contact in front of LaJoie, sending them each spinning, the 30-year old LaJoie kept his foot in the throttle and hoped for the best.
It paid off.
“It looked like the wreck in Days of Thunder there, coming to the checkered,” LaJoie exclaimed. “These things on the last lap, you commit to not lifting and luckily we were in the right spot at the right time.”
For LaJoie, it looked like his eventual career-best run would be derailed by an accident on lap 145, where LaJoie went for a skid through the infield grass. As he pitched sideways and dug into the sod, LaJoie only had one thought on his mind.
“Stop. Please stop. Stop. Please stop,” LaJoie recalled.
After his off road excursion, the driver who hails from North Carolina, expected his car to be a little worse for the wear, but the Next Gen car held up very well and LaJoie was able to march on the path to securing a top-finish.
“…these Next Gen cars are pretty rugged and they held up,” LaJoie explained. “I was worried about the diffuser, but it was intact and we were able to have a good day. It was nerve-wracking, but it was fun.”
Not only did his No. 7 Fraternal Order of Eagles Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro hold up, LaJoie thinks it actually was improved with the spin on lap 145.
“I think it handled better [after the incident],” LaJoie admitted. “Rarely do you adjust it yourself and it goes any better. But it didn’t go any worse and I was happy about that.”
LaJoie and the No. 7 team are off to a great start to the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series campaign, much better than they could have even imagined. After Sunday’s race, LaJoie has now scored top-15 finishes in three of the first five races of the year and he has already recorded his career-best finish. The driver of the No. 7 car is on cloud nine after the quick start.
“I think if you would have told me we would start the year with three out of five top-15s, I would have probably laughed at you,” LaJoie quipped. “We still have a lot of work to do, but today was a good day.”
While LaJoie and his team definitely still have room for improvement, their only real chink in the armor was last week in Phoenix, when the right front wheel flew off the car, causing LaJoie to go into the wall and out of the race after completing just 45 laps. Aside from that DNF, it’s been about the best case scenario for LaJoie and his team through the opening five races of 2022.