There was a time a couple of years ago when Corey LaJoie was under a driver development contract with Richard Petty Motorsports and people began to question his ability behind the wheel. Eventually, between opportunities not coming together and LaJoie admitting he over drove the car when he got a chance behind the wheel, the contract ran out, and LaJoie faded off the radar.
The second generation racer is now on track to redeeming himself after posting his second straight top-10 finish at Dover International Speedway with a career-best sixth.
“It obviously went really good, especially when you can get away with a top-10 with a good strategy and a good car to back it up with,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I thought it was a really good weekend.”
Initially, this year admittedly started off with some “growing pains” as the team searched for speed and LaJoie got back used to driving the XFINITY Series cars. With only a best finish of 18th in the first six starts, he admits it’s nice to see the turnaround as of late and credits it to everything starting to fall into place.
“It’s just a combination that they’re bringing better cars to the track each week, and I’m getting more in-tune with how to drive the XFINITY cars and giving them good feedback,” he said. “It’s just a combination of everything that we’ve done so far, and obviously there’s been a little bit of luck.”
Each week, LaJoie has continued to learn and get better, and while he can lean on his father Randy LaJoie for advice, he says he tries to learn things firsthand instead.
“No matter what anybody can tell you, it doesn’t beat going out and learning it yourself,” he said. “I’ve learned some things the hard way, and I’ve been lucky to surround myself with good people to learn some things. Just every time I am out there, I try and learn as much as I can.”
With each lesson packed away, the confidence has been growing and now is beginning to show through. It’s an opportunity in which LaJoie is thankful for JGL Racing co-owners James Whitener and Gregg Mixon having the patience through the process.
“I’m really thankful for James and for these guys for taking the time and putting up the money to get me the experience I need to learn to drive these cars,” he said. “If I’m in a good situation, I feel like I can run with the best of them and we’re doing that with a smaller budget and not as many resources as the guys we’ve been beating lately.”
With only a partial schedule on tap right now, LaJoie will not be running at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, but will run the final three races of the season – Texas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Given the recent momentum, LaJoie is hopeful for another three strong races to help towards possibly putting together a full-time effort for 2017.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “It’s really hard to jump in and out of the seat and drive once a month and compete against the guys that drive every weekend. So I feel like once I get in the car and am comfortable every week, I’d be able to run with the best out there. It’s all playing it by ear. Hopefully, we can get Youtheory to come back for some more and get some resources around JGL and maybe put together the whole package to run for a championship.
“I feel they have all their ducks in a row – good people, good cars – and they just need a little more help on the resource side to make ends meet. I feel I can push the button as good as anybody, just need to be out there each week learning and gaining experience.”
The future is certainly an unknown, but no matter what happens, this year has been the right medicine following the errors of before.
“It’s kind of been the rebuilding year,” he said. “Everybody is starting to realize that Corey LaJoie can drive again.”
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