A handwritten letter sounds like the story a driver back in the Plymouth days of NASCAR would tell about how they got their job. That may end up being Corey LaJoie’s story come next season.
With Jimmie Johnson’s retirement on the horizon, the subject of who will precede the legend will begin to pop up. LaJoie has gone ahead and offered his resume up first. LaJoie sent a handwritten letter to owner Rick Hendrick only asking that he keep his eye on the 28-year old Charlotte native when the time comes to replace Johnson.
At first glance, LaJoie seems like a poor choice for the job, but going back to look at what LaJoie was able to do in quality equipment would reveal there might be more to this than we thought.
Going back to when he was 18 and driving for his father’s team in the K&N Series, Corey had 32 starts with 19 top tens and 5 wins. In his best season, he finished 2nd in the standings.
Worth noting that while he had solid equipment for the level of competition via Randy LaJoie Racing, it wasn’t a top-level team. But he was turning in top-level results.
He went on to part-time rides from then on and had an amazing short stint in the ARCA series wherein 5 races he had 3 wins and 4 top tens. Then the dark ages came, he would then go on to drive terrible equipment for bottom-feeding Cup teams when he wasn’t ready for the big leagues just yet.
Corey LaJoie jumped into bad rides in the Cup series with only 24 total starts in the Xfinity and Truck Series combined and it destroyed his development as well as his reputation. It’s hard for any team to scout you when your running in the back.
Currently, he is driving the #32 for Go Fas Racing in the Cup Series. Something worth noting, this past season racing for Go Fas he had 2 top tens and an average finish of 26th. Whereas Matt DiBenedetto who drove the car in 2018 only had 1 top ten and an average finish of 27th. Not substantially better, but Matty D has shown what getting better equipment can do.
Without a proper development driver in the JR Motorsports stable, I think drivers like LaJoie or Ross Chastain are solid contenders for the ride. He’s a good talent that I think could churn out results to Hendrick standards if given the right ride. He’s not a generation leading talent that Hendrick will probably be looking for like Elliott or Byron were, but LaJoie can drive a race car and I think he’s worth giving a shot to even if his ceiling isn’t substantially high compared to younger drivers. Another thing to think about if you are a potential suitor for him, he would also be a great driver for sponsors being a good looking guy with an entertaining personality.
Hendrick Motorsports will do their due diligence no doubt. Who knows what names we’ll start to hear pop up as 2021 gets closer, but LaJoie has made a great first impression.