Corey LaJoie gives his Spire Motorsports team a passing grade at the start of the NASCAR Cup Series season as the focus shifts to trying to even out their performance.
The No. 7 is 21st in the championship standings entering Martinsville Speedway (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, FS1). A fourth place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the team’s highlights, along with an eleventh place finish at the Circuit of The Americas.
But while LaJoie has five top 20 finishes, there have also been weeks when the No. 7 Chevrolet hasn’t been close. LaJoie finished 26th at Phoenix Raceway and 30th at the Bristol Dirt last weekend.
“I would give us a 2 right now,” LaJoie said of the season. “I spoke to Kevin Harvick for a while this week about attacking a race throughout the day when the car is fast. You don’t have to race like every lap of your life depends on it; You don’t have to race quite as desperately. So the speed that Spire Motorsports has given me in our cars this year allows me to turn the knob up and down on what my aggression and situational awareness looks like.”
With a top-5 and a top-10 finish, LaJoie made up for what he earned in a full season last year. But unlike that time a year ago he is in much better form on points having been 30th in the championship standings after eight races in 2022.
LaJoie also seems to have a much more consistent race car. Placing in the top 20 this season makes it realistic to consider a potential postseason spot.
“As realistic as it’s ever been, I think,” LaJoie said. “We’ve always had to win at a speedway to find our way into the playoffs. But realistically I think there’s nobody behind us on points – you can look at a few guys – but there aren’t more than two or three guys that consistently outperform us. I think there are a couple of guys in front of us who, after we’ve stringed a few races together, can actually be up on points.
“I think right now we’re a 17th-20th place team in terms of overall speed and power. So if we can hold that, start running in the top 15, then start running in the top 10. But our way of getting into the playoffs is certainly winning a speedway race.”
It’s hard for LaJoie to point out one thing that made the difference this season.
“There is no magic pill,” he said. “It’s just that my team keeps getting stronger. We have a lot of great people working long hours trying to build our cars for the additional information we’re getting from GM and some other partners and applying what we’ve learned has certainly been an asset and an improvement . It’s easy to run days where your cars have some overall speed. So our cars have a slightly better speed.
“I’m getting a little more confidence. It’s like the chicken or the egg; You have to have confidence to run well, but you also have to have fast cars to gain confidence. We’re starting to move forward and I’m content with where we are right now; we will keep getting better.”