NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2021 NASCAR Preseason Power Rankings No. 29: Corey LaJoie

The driver with a ‘stacking pennies” mentality will now look to pile them up in a new stable in 2021.

It’s a new era for both Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports in 2021, with the third-generation racer having moved on from Go Fas Racing after competing in the No. 32 car the past two years in the NASCAR Cup Series. Now, it’s onto the No. 7 for Spire.

A Look Back

Steadily, LaJoie has improved over the past four seasons, increasing his average finish each year. In 2020, his average finish of 25.6 and his 11 lead-lap finishes were both career highs. His lone top 10 came in the Daytona 500, and he picked up 16th-place finishes at Talladega Superspeedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, spotlighting his ability to get as much as possible out of the cars he was driving.

Promising Venues

Due to their unpredictability, Talladega and Daytona International Speedway have to be strong candidates for LaJoie to run well. His pair of top-10 finishes in 2019 came at Talladega and Daytona, for example. Spire even has a Daytona win via Justin Haley in 2019, even if it was the result of weather shortening the race. Wins are wins, no matter how they come. Toss in new venues, such as Circuit of the Americas, Road America and the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway, and there’s definite equalizers, with the races at the tracks being mostly new to the Cup garage.

LaJoie has also pulled together some solid finishes on intermediate tracks, averaging a finish of better than 26th at Las Vegas, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, along with similar results at Martinsville Speedway.

2021 Scenarios

Like any new team and driver combination, there are bound to be learning curves. Lack of practice time, as most event weekends have a similar format as last year, won’t help either.

Don’t be surprised, however, if due to the randomness-factor of the Daytona 500, LaJoie comes away with a strong result to open the year. But as is usually the case, the ‘real season,’ as some call it, begins after the Great American Race. And that’ll be notably true for LaJoie and his new team, as the Daytona road course, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Las Vegas, Phoenix Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway lead into the Bristol dirt race. That stretch is where the No. 7 team will find out what it is made of. Look for LaJoie to take a step forward heading into the second half of the season, as the series makes second visits to a number of venues and his team’s notebook expands.

Outlook

The sky’s the limit for LaJoie and Spire. A team that has not had a driver compete in more than 13 races in a single season will obviously intend to improve its results much more with LaJoie in 2021. The fact that LaJoie will run far more races than any driver has previously for Spire will do wonders. That continuity, plus the fact that Spire will have Ryan Sparks coming over to handle crew chief duties after doing likewise for LaJoie at Go Fas Racing in 2019, will build a chemistry that the team has not experienced as of yet in its young existence.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Spire appears committed to helping LaJoie be the architect of taking the organization from an also-ran to eventually being on the plane of Front Row Motorsports or JTG Motorsports, and possibly even beyond that someday.

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