Spire Motorsports driver Corey LaJoie has a career-best finish of 29th in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings, which he set in 2019 and 2021. He is on pace to leave this in the dust due to his early consistency.
The driver of the No. 7 has started all five Cup Series races in 2023, and he has completed every event while keeping the Chevrolet Camaro clean. He also secured stage points at both Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. The result is that he is currently 14th in the standings.
LaJoie has put himself in contention for strong finishes during this early stretch. He was 16th in the Daytona 500, 14th at Auto Club Speedway, 20th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 26th at Phoenix Raceway, and fourth at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Compare this run to the first year of the Next Gen era. LaJoie started the year with a 14th-place finish, but he crossed the line 28th at Fontana. He then finished 15th at Las Vegas, 36th at Phoenix (crash), and fifth at Atlanta. An engine failure the following week at Circuit of the Americans then dropped him from 23rd in the standings to 29th.
LaJoie Delivered a Career-Best Finish at Atlanta
LaJoie is someone that draws attention at superspeedways. He knows how to make strong moves at these tracks, and he was within one Chase Elliott block of winning his first national series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2022.
The 2023 spring race at Atlanta was the latest example. LaJoie started 31st in the 36-car field, but he steadily made gains during the first two stages which featured only one caution for incident. LaJoie even finished 10th in the second stage while making the right moves and avoiding mistakes.
The veteran driver was a factor during the final stage. He ran inside the top 10 and top five at times, and he was in a position to potentially fight for the win in the closing laps. Joey Logano ultimately crossed the finish line first, but LaJoie still delivered a career-best fourth-place finish.
“I hope he gives me a shout-out for pushing him,” LaJoie said after the race. “Gave him a good shot there at the end. I was probably fourth or fifth in the top lane there. I had an opportunity to get down and as soon as I didn’t take it, I was like, ‘Man, that was the race.’ That was probably with 18 or 20 to go.
“That’s why these guys make millions of dollars. They’re pretty good and know where to put their car. Fourth-place is a solid day for the No. 7 Celsius Chevy team.”
LaJoie Can Keep Stacking Pennies
LaJoie has enjoyed a strong start to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and he now sits above such drivers as Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, AJ Allmendinger, and Erik Jones after the first five races.
Will LaJoie keep this momentum and challenge for the first playoff appearance of his career? The answer remains unknown, but there are factors that will play a role.
For example, two of LaJoie’s eight DNFs in 2022 were due to engine issues. The other six were due to crashes. If Spire Motorsports can continue bringing quality equipment to the track, LaJoie will have better opportunities to put himself in a position to keep his momentum at a variety of tracks.
What is the ceiling for Lajoie if he keeps on this path? The playoffs are definitely possible given his ability to contend at superspeedway-style tracks. A limited number of winners could also set him up to push for a spot on points.
If nothing else, LaJoie is likely to end the year with the best statistics of his career. If he adds two more top-10 finishes to his total, he will surpass the previous best that he set during the 2019 season. One more top-five will set a new career-high.