Continuing in his father’s footsteps, Corey LaJoie has made his mark in the ranks of NASCAR as he gets set to embark on his third season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition. He will enter the year with a new team, though, as he made the move over to Go Fas Racing for 2019.
The North Carolina native recently shared his thoughts entering the year, and more with POPULAR SPEED.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into the season?
COREY LAJOIE: This is definitely the most excited I’ve ever been in January because I’ve never really had a job this early in the off-season like I have here at Go Fas (Racing). I’m really able to focus on being able to work out and being fit and mentally ready before Daytona versus hitting the pavement and trying to find a ride.
PS: What are your goals and expectations?
COREY: I think it’s all kind of an unknown about this package so we’re going to see how that shakes out for the first couple of weeks; probably get through the west coast swing and then take another evaluation.
I think that everybody is on-board with being pretty realistic. If we don’t have any mistakes or failures, we should able to race with the Front Row (Motorsports) cars, and with the 43 (Darrell Wallace), and with a couple of guys that have a bit of a bigger budget if we get our cars handling well. For some weekends, depending on how many cars wreck, that could be 20th, or if nobody wrecks, that could be 28th. But we’re still going to try to do the best we can with what we have and see how it shakes out.
PS: What track are you most looking forward to?
COREY: It’s hard to look past Daytona because I’m so excited to get down there and get racing. I think since they went away from the ride height, it’s taken away from it. Beforehand, teams could only do a certain amount of things to get the car down out of the air; but now there’s a million different things to do, so now the bigger teams with the wind tunnel time can find the best platform to run their cars. So the chances of a smaller team getting up there and stealing a win are smaller, but there’s still always a chance to get up into the mix and shake something out.
But beyond that, I’m pretty vocal about liking short tracks – the Bristols and Martinsvilles where you can get your elbows up and bump and grind; those are the places that I like to go.
PS: What is one track that you wish that was on the schedule that currently isn’t?
COREY: There’s a bunch. I know they’re trying to revive Nashville. That’s an awesome track with an awesome community around it that feels NASCAR belongs in Nashville. But you can also throw in tracks like Iowa being a great Cup race, or Kern County out in Bakersfield would be a great Cup race. There’s a lot of shorter tracks where I feel we can go and branch out.
There’s also international markets like going back to Canada, or South America; I feel like we can keep building this. I feel the right people in the building in Daytona are pulling us in the right direction.
PS: Looking back on last season, what are your reflections?
COREY: I wasn’t really pleased with the results. We didn’t have as many good runs as I thought we would’ve. We had some engine failures and a combination of cars being older and parts breaking. Even when we got a good finish, we would find the chassis had cracks or whatever.
It was a tough year, but I enjoyed the people that I worked with and we just tried to do the best that we could, but you’re swimming in a deep pond in the Cup Series. When you don’t have a lot of sponsorship or engineering support, you can get buried pretty quick.
PS: Even with the year not going as planned, what’s something that you learned last year that you feel will help moving forward?
COREY: I learned something different every week, but the two teams I’ve been with, I’ve also learned something different each year it seems as a whole. But definitely being more patient as a driver and learning to save your equipment at times where you’re not going to have the best day going for you.
Go Fas is still on a pretty tight budget as well, but they have some newer equipment and really good people who can make the most of it. So there’s going to be some days where we’re in conserve mode and trying to establish the best finish we can, but there’s also going to be weeks where we’re set on kill and be able to get up in the mix and get a good day out of it. Hopefully there’s more of the latter through the year.
I think it will be good. I’ve been to all of these tracks except for Sonoma yet, so that’s going to be interesting to go to another road course for the first time; so I’ll have to do some practice on that. But beyond that, I feel like I’ve been to every track on the circuit now. So I’ll get used to this package here and see how that shakes out race-wise, and then hopefully the second time we’re back around if the package is the same, we’ll have some good notes and try to get better.
PS: If you were in charge of NASCAR for one day, what is one change you would make to improve the sport?
COREY: That’s way above my pay grade so I don’t want to tell those guys what they need to do, but there’s also a lot of things that don’t allow you to make very quick changes in this sport. I think they’re obviously seeing the results of that over the past couple of years.
So if I was in charge of the sport – I don’t know as I don’t want to be a Monday morning quarterback. Lesa France, and Jim France, they all know what they’re doing. They all know that they want to see this sport go in the best direction; I think they’re doing pretty well.
PS: We’ve seen a lot of talk recently about drivers wanting to try different series and cars. Is there anything on your wish list?
COREY: I’d love to run some more asphalt super late races, even dirt stuff. I’m familiar with the super late model stuff; I was all too cheap on the car to get all the things that I needed. I went down to the Snowball Derby a couple times and was always just a little bit off because I was too cheap to buy that extra set of tires or shocks to try on it. So I’m glad I’m a better driver than I am an owner.
There’s some short track bucket list races that I want to win. I want to win the Snowball Derby as I’ve been down there a couple years but hadn’t been able to win; I had some good runs, though. The Winchester 400 is a cool track; I’ve always wanted to try out and run IRP. But right now, I’m really focused on trying to keep this Cup career going as long as I can.
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