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Corey LaJoie ‘Got a Lot of Great Experience’ Running Up Front in the 2024 Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While he didn’t pick up the win, Corey LaJoie picked up valuable experience running up front throughout the 2024 running of ‘The Great American Race.’

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor, Kickin’ The Tires

LaJoie’s No. 7 Chili’s Catch-a-Rita Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 drafted to the front of the Daytona 500 field, pushing two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch along the way. The duo worked their way up with Busch leading the middle lane. That was LaJoie’s manufacturer teammate baited him into the top lane. The veteran quickly filled the gap.

The Spire Motorsports driver slipped back until a 23-car crash wiped out the majority of the field with 10 laps to go at Daytona Int’l Speedway. LaJoie narrowly missed the melee. However, the tight confines on the restart he battled with Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain, and A.J. Allmendinger. Contact sent Cindric spinning, causing a race-ending caution. LaJoie took the checkered flag in fourth.

“I got a lot of great experience leading the lanes, controlling them,” LaJoie said. “Kyle Busch pulled a about 140 race and IQ-move on me out of Turn 2 and jumped to the top. He was kind of baiting me to the top and filled the middle. So, I learned something there, you know, and it’s just a little bit of stacking pennies, one at a time. Every time we come, I get a little better, a little more comfortable in this. Top-five is really good.”

Ultimately, LaJoie doesn’t know if there was anything he could have done differently. As the journeyman driver explained, all he could do was push the driver ahead of him as he was stuck several rows behind the leader. There was one opportunity that the Concord, N.C. native could have taken, however, he opted to go the safer route.

“It’s hard to say, right?” LaJoie said. “You’re stuck. Probably second, third row. You’re just pushing your guy. You’re trying to hope your lane prevails, so you might be able to get the opportunity to jump to the top and cover that line.

“I had one opportunity to do that. I didn’t take it. I thought I was safe at the bottom, but sometimes that’s the difference because that was where I could have filled that spot and ended up on the hook. All in all, to start the season off with our Spire Motorsports team in the fourth, it was good.”

Though he worked with Busch throughout much of the race, it was Allmendinger and the Kaulig Racing cars that LaJoie worked with in the late stages. The 32-year-old pitted with the two Kaulig cars during the final round of green flag pit stops. Allmendinger stayed committed to working with him in the closing laps, following him through a gap Cindric had opened.

Post-race, LaJoie thanked Allmendinger for taking care of him at the end of the race.

“I thanked (him) for taking care of me,” LaJoie explained. “He went with me there when I went to fill the bottom. The No. 2 left an entire lane open, so I filled it. Then he threw a lazy block and (it) wrecked a couple cars and himself. You’ll have that.”

Although he ran inside the top-10 often, the seventh-year Cup driver didn’t earn any Stage points. He also didn’t earn any points in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel race, finishing outside of the top-10.

The fourth-place finish was LaJoie’s fourth career top-five finish in the NASCAR Cup Series. It was also his ninth career top-10 finish.

Heading into the AmBetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, LaJoie sits 10th in the driver points standings, 21-points behind leader, and Daytona 500 winner William Byron. Since Atlanta’s reconfiguration, he has scored two top-five finishes at the track, both in the Spring races.

The AmBetter Health 400 at Atlanta is scheduled for Sunday, February 25, at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

Corey LaJoie is the son of Two-Time Xfinity Champion Randy LaJoie who grew up in Norwalk, CT

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