Corey LaJoie made the most of his Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Daytona International Speedway, securing a spot in the Daytona 500 in his No. 83 BK Racing Toyota.
The 25-year-old third generation racer finished 18th in the first CanAm Duel, ahead of Reed Sorenson and Brendan Gaughan, to capture the transfer position that was available for one of these non-charter teams. It was not, however, without controversy.
On Lap 49, LaJoie made contact with the No. 55 car of Reed Sorenson which then spun into Paul Menard’s No. 27. Sorenson hit the inside retaining wall and was eliminated from the race.
After the qualifying race, Sorenson was understandably upset.
“I guess he felt like he did what he had to do to make the race,” he said. “I hope he’s proud of that part of it. There’s a lot of pressure going into making this race. It’s a very big deal for a small team like ours.”
LaJoie maintains that he didn’t intentionally wreck Sorensen, saying, “I mean, obviously wrecking Reed wasn’t how I drew it up. It certainly wasn’t on purpose. I was just trying to fill a hole. He didn’t think I should be there.”
But, he was also determined to do whatever it took to make the race,
“I just had to beat him,” he explained. “I didn’t want to be sipping Margaritas on the beach on Sunday. I wanted to be out there racing. If that was my mom, I’d probably spin her out to make the Daytona 500, too. That’s just frank. I’m not going on Reed’s Christmas card list this year, but that’s all right.”
To put it into perspective, LaJoie talked about how this opportunity came about and what it means to him.
“You know, Ron (Devine, BK Racing owner) could have put lots of guys in it, Casey Mears, the list is long for guys he could have put in it,” he said. “Obviously he likes giving young drivers a shot with Matt (DiBenedetto), Alex Bowman, the list goes on.
“I was politicking very hard. I don’t have a whole lot of starts in any division. I’ve been part-timing in everything. Limited XFINITY starts, a couple Truck starts, a couple Cup starts.
“I know I can do it in the right opportunity. I politicked very hard. I didn’t feel like I was making a whole lot of headway with it. I texted Jimmie Johnson. I said, ‘Hey, I feel like if the seven-time champ comes two weeks removed from the seventh championship makes a text, it could carry some weight.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah, no problem.’
“So he called him up, talked for about an hour. Two days later the call came to me. Hey, this is the call you’ve been waiting for. Let’s go. It’s still only part-time. BK is working hard to try to sell sponsorship to fill more races, but right now all I care about is Sunday.”
LaJoie might have limited experience by some standards but his talent behind the wheel is undeniable.
He has six wins in the K&N Pro Series East Series where he finished second in the championship standings in 2012 and was selected as part of the 2012 NASCAR Next Class. LaJoie also has three wins in the ARCA Series and earned two top-10 finishes in 10 starts in the XFINITY Series in 2016.
And, while some may question his aggressiveness on the track, for LaJoie, this could be the break he’s been waiting for his entire life and he’s not about to waste it.
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