Modified Plans: Corey LaJoie Making The Most Of All Competitive Opportunities

By Travis Barrett ~ Special To RaceDayCT

Corey LaJoie (Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Corey LaJoie (Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images for NASCAR)

THOMPSON — Corey Lajoie has a stock answer prepared for the hundreds of times he’s been asked – and will be asked again – about his NASCAR plans on the national level.

“There’s a lot of talk about it,” LaJoie said Saturday after qualifying third for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s season-opening Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. “If I had a big old wheelbarrow full of cash, I could pretty much stop into any shop in Charlotte and run some — but that’s not the case. There’s a lot of irons in the fire, but if you don’t bring a check nowadays, you’re not going to go racing.”

Less three years ago, LaJoie was one of the hottest young names in NASCAR. He’d won five of the 13 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races in 2012, only finishing second to future Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson in the final series standings after a point penalty for a carburetor infraction cost him the points that would have earned him the title. With 17 Top-5 finishes in 35 career K&N Pro Series starts, LaJoie had the ability, the lineage (as the son of two-time Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie) and the marketable personality to put him on everybody’s short list of qualified drivers to fill vacancies in any of NASCAR’s three national series.

Though he’s had 10 combined starts in the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series — as well as three wins in only five ARCA appearances — LaJoie has once again found his drive to NASCAR’s highest levels stalled. He made five Xfinity starts in 2014 with an average finishing position of 27th.

“I certainly wouldn’t say last season was a confidence builder,” LaJoie said. “I got kicked in the dirt pretty much every week when I’d show up. When you’re in a place where a good day is 15th, I wasn’t wired that way. I didn’t grow up that way, I wasn’t taught that way and I never raced that way. You start questioning if you can do it.

“To get back in good equipment, to get back in a Modified where I had some success earlier in my career — I’m excited to be back (and qualified) third. Hopefully, we’ve got something for tomorrow.”

LaJoie joins Rob Fuller Motorsports for a part-time schedule this season. He expects to make six or seven Whelen Modified Tour starts as Fuller uses him to gain valuable feedback for his still-blossoming LFR Chassis company.

Even though it’s only part-time, LaJoie senses a stability he hasn’t enjoyed in racing in a couple of seasons.

“It’s always good when you know when the next time you’re racing again is,” he said. “I haven’t known the ‘next time’ I’m racing in a while. You definitely think about your opportunities when you’re sticking it in a hole that you probably should or shouldn’t be in — but then again, you don’t really think about that part when you’re in the heat of the moment (on the track). I just drive the car as fast as it can go.

“I’m excited for tomorrow to be racing with these guys.”

LaJoie’s family is rooted in Modified racing — Randy LaJoie is a native of Norwalk and godfather of 2011 Whelen Modified Tour champion Ron Silk. Corey won his first Southern Modified Tour start, at Atlanta, the year before Silk won that title.

LaJoie calls Concord, N.C., home, and the 23-year-old driver knows that bloodlines mean little when it comes to the green flag on the Tour’s 30th anniversary season Sunday.

“I was telling someone today, you can’t just come up here and expect to jump in a Modified and (compete) with these guys. This is their home turf,” LaJoie said. “These guys have been racing (at Thompson) since they were 15, 16 years old in SK Modifieds. (Pole-sitter Doug Coby) probably has 19,000 races here. I know (Ryan) Preece does — he races here Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, twice a night.

“I followed (Bobby) Santos in practice and learned some things from him. He probably didn’t know that. It’s just cool to come up here and race with the best in Modifieds, whether it’s Teddy (Christopher) or Doug or Donny Lia or whoever. These guys are really good at what they do, and I’m excited to learn from them. I’m excited to race with them.”

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