Corey LaJoie‘s NASCAR career has been about as unorthodox as they come.
Despite his famous last name in racing circles, nothing has been given to him in his time behind the wheel. In fact, it’s made his journey to the pinnacle of the sport harder, as he details here.
We spoke with the Concord, North Carolina native at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to discuss his upbringing in racing, his unorthodox marketing strategy to begin 2019 and much more.
Davey Segal, Frontstretch: You’ve been in the headlines the past month or so because of your paint scheme ran in the first two races at Daytona and Atlanta with your face on it. Do you care that people are recognizing you for that and not your on-track accomplishments?
Corey LaJoie: Whatever it takes for people to put a face to the name. Even if they didn’t even like the sport, they know I’m the guy who put his face on the car—whether or not I did or not, Old Spice wanted to do it—but I have gotten recognized way more in the following week or two after that. It was a great thing for the sponsor because it got a lot of attention, but it was also great for my career to for people to realize who I am.
Segal: And you also got to hang with some of the Barstool Sports guys. How was that?
LaJoie: All those guys are really cool. Dave (Portnoy) puts that persona on right when he gets on the camera but he’s a pretty relatable guy and he’s hilarious. He’s a good business guy too. He knows what our generation wants to see. They tiptoes the line sometimes they cross it but it’s a cool brand to bring into the sport and for us to show them ‘hey NASCAR is cool, and it could be cool if you embrace it,’ so that was great for my social media as well.
Meeting Caleb Pressley, Rone and all those guys. That’s my type of humor. They appreciate when an athlete in the sport can give it back to them because they’re not used to it.
Segal: You have a new sponsor in the fold in Prospr.
LaJoie: It’s actually a crypto-currency. I dabbled in that last year until it went right in the tank. A good friend of mine dabbles heavily in it and that’s who helped us out in this deal. We had Dragon Chain and a couple other ones last year in the No. 72 car. But Prospr is the one here, they signed on for Las Vegas and I think they’re going to be on the car a couple more times in Chicago and Texas.
Welcome them aboard. I’m glad in a sense my face isn’t on it this week. That was starting to run its course but we’re going to try and give those guys a good run and hopefully they can use it for whatever marketing they want.
Segal: If you face is on the car every race, that kind of defeats the purpose.
LaJoie: Yeah, right? I think two weeks was enough to run its course. I think 36 weeks would get old pretty quick. It worked and I think it sold a bunch of Old Spice product, and it got me a lot of recognition.
Segal: So, Old Spice’s dry shampoo, can you explain to me how this thing works? I’m skeptical.
LaJoie: If you have a meeting or something where you can’t wear a hat, it’s been a day or two and you haven’t taken a shower and your hair is kind of greasy, a couple shots of that thing and it makes your ‘fro come back nice and big. I didn’t even know what it was. I knew chicks used it. But that’s taboo, like ‘oh, I’m not going to use dry shampoo. I’m not a chick.’ Well, ironically, after you take your helmet off, you’re kind of sweaty, hair is all smashed up, you spray some Old Spice shampoo in that thing and it’s good as new. Like a million bucks. You can walk into the Met Gala with a couple squirts.
Segal: Okay, you led me to one of my questions. What does a 22-year-old Jewish guy with a receding hairline do if he wants to…
LaJoie: Get chicks?
Segal: Well, that too. But how does he get a full beard first?
LaJoie: You gotta keep oiling that thing up. Patience and beard oil. Actually Old Spice just came out with—not even a shameless plug, I don’t think it’s even out in stores yet. it’s the nice consistency, smells nice, but oil is what it’s all about it. It makes it come in way more full. And you don’t get dry skin or whatever. You gotta keep lubing that thing up man.
Segal: Let’s go back a few years. In 2011 and 2012, you’re killing it in the K&N Pro Series. But after that, things didn’t materialize for you and leveled off. How tough was it to see other drivers who, frankly, weren’t as talented as you, move up in competitive stuff while you were sitting on the sidelines or in non-competitive equipment?
LaJoie: I haven’t had enough people do research to realize I used to be good and win races and be good a couple years ago.
I raced with all these guys. Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Hemric, I raced with them wheel to wheel and sometimes they beat me but a lot of times I beat them. And then it just kind of worked into when I was racing on other people’s money or lack thereof.
I had to jump in whatever car I had because I didn’t have a Hendrick deal, or a Penske deal, or a Gannasi deal, any sort of deal that gets me in a good car and around a good group of people. I didn’t have that for whatever reason. Whether it might’ve been my maturity level being too low, no-one wanted to help me out at that time—I’ve definitely been knocked down a couple rungs in the humility department, which is good, because now I appreciate where I’m at way more then I would’ve if my trajectory just stayed consistently forward.
Segal: It’s good to have some speed humps in the way to keep you grounded.
LaJoie: Oh, they weren’t even speed humps. It was like road blocks. I was crew chilling a K&N West car, flying out west to crew chief David Mayhew for a year. I wasn’t driving anything. Flew out there, won a couple races, and I was going down that path just to pay bills because I didn’t have anything to drive. That sponsor, YouTheory, that was on the Xfinity car a couple years ago, they came to me and wanted to get me in the fold. They helped me out and kind of started that snowball rolling down the hill. I had a new perspective on the sport, appreciated it a lot more.
And now I’m in the best spot I’ve been in on Sundays. I think it’s going to be a better spot when some of these bigger name guys start retiring. Maybe I can hop in a championship winning car one day. But right now, I’m checking the boxes and doing what I can. Taking a 25th-place car and running 25th with it, not trying to run 20th, because it’s the Cup Series. Not everybody but the top 32, 33 guys are driving their car to the maximum grip level for the tire, aero, downforce, engine output can do. You can mix the top 32 guys up, mix the cars up and they’re all going to finish within two or three spots of each other. That’s just how it works and people don’t understand that.
You can’t take a 25th-place car and run 15th with it. It’s impossible. Those days are over with. To know that, get a lot of experience with trying to take those cars that weren’t capable of running and either tearing them up or blowing tires or whatever it was, they cannot run that fast. It’s not possible. That’s what I’ve learned that’s going to keep applying for years to come and luckily I’ve been able to make a living and career doing this the past four years and hopefully I can do it for another 10.
Segal: People don’t know the full story…
LaJoie: They don’t care to look deeper. But at the end of the day, 20th place isn’t exciting. When you’re racing on a shoestring budget that’s 1/10th of what other guys are racing on, 20th can be a great day. Last year in Las Vegas we finished 16th here with TriStar and that was a really good day for us. Granted 30 people wrecked or whatever it was. But to be in position to have a good finish, that was the highlight of our season because it wasn’t going very well with all the engine issues we had.
I think now the car has way more speed than anything I’ve been in. It’s going to put us in a position that there’s a race where everybody’s wrecking and we can keep our stuff clean then maybe we can crack in the top 15 more often. Maybe run top 10 at some other tracks. Randy Cox is a great crew chief, Archie is a great owner who knows where to spend the money and win and what not to spend the money on for the useless things. We’re just going to try to do the little things right and see what happens.
Segal: If they saw you and your last name, they would maybe assume everything would have been handed to you by your father, Randy. But it couldn’t be further from the truth, right?
LaJoie: It’s probably actually made my road harder. People just think that my dad’s put me in all these race winning cars. If I physically didn’t get the car ready to go to the race track up until ARCA, it wasn’t going. It was me and a buddy—he now works with Tyler Young—we’d pull all-nighters and do whatever we had to do. Granted, dad’s had a lot of relationships where we’ve been able to get and borrow stuff and do the whole thing. It wasn’t a situation where dad would call Rick Hendrick and be like ‘yo Rick, put my kid on a development deal, send Lance McGrew to crew chief this kid in an ARCA or K&N Car,’ you know? That wasn’t the case.
I had to do it the hard way and I wasn’t able to get in one of those situations where I was driving a race winning car. There’s only been three times in my life when I felt like I showed up to the race track with a winning car. One was a late model I drove for Eddie Sharp at Rockingham. Won that one. I drove another late model at Rockingham for Randy Sears. Won that one three races in a row. I showed up and ran a couple years ago, ran a K&N car for MDM, the No. 41 car, won that one. Anytime I’m in a car that’s capable of winning, I can get the job done. If you look at all my national series stuff, I haven’t even been in a top 15 capable car. You look at my Racing Reference numbers and they’re absolutely atrocious.
Segal: People don’t dive deep enough to see the actual story behind you…
LaJoie: You almost have to be racing on a handicap if they want to use RR in terms of what your caliber is as a driver.
Segal: Does that bother you though?
LaJoie: It used to. Some weeks I look at it as a job. I’m very blessed to make the money I make to do what I do. I would have never dreamed that I’d be getting paid to drive around in circles.
It used to bother me, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t. If I keep my mouth shut, but open it and say the right thing when there’s something to say, but also care about the sport and do my job behind the wheel, there’s going to come a day when I am in a race winning car. I am winning championships. Because there’s no doubt I can do it. It’s just being in the right situation with the right people.
Segal: Bubba told me a funny story about you two in high school. Does that ring a bell?
LaJoie: Oh yeah. We went to high school together, I picked him up every morning and dropped him off every afternoon in high school. The entire time—I lived like six minutes one way, and he lived six minutes the other way, so it was like a 12-minute drive. There, back, every day. Lot of driving over the course of three years. So he gives me a birthday card with $20 in it one year. He’s like ‘hey man, happy birthday and here’s some gas money. Thanks for being a good friend.’ 20 bucks? For three years of driving you? Every day you give me 20 bucks of gas money? That’s been the running joke forever.
Every time I see Bubba, ‘I gave you gas money!’’. ‘Well yeah d***head 20 bucks was probably after three weeks, I drove you for three years!’ Me and him have been buddies for a long time. It’s funny, we were actually talking about it. Me, Bubba and Hemric were all sitting around and it’s funny because Daniel grew up five minutes from us too. To be racing at the hugest level with your buddies you raced bandaleros with is pretty damn cool.
EDITORS NOTE: Old Spice Beard Oil, as well as all other products, are available on Amazon.com