The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was an exciting and memorable one with the introduction of the new Next Gen car that would include running on several new tracks in the LA Coliseum and World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.
For Spire Motorsports and the rest of the small teams in the garage, the new car offered some extra hope and inspiration because, according to NASCAR, its single-source vendor design was intended to level the playing field and give David a chance against Goliath. Corey LaJoie slung his stone early in the year in Atlanta and almost took out an HMS giant. Here’s a look back at the 2022 Cup season with Spire.
Corey LaJoie had arguably the best season of his career
Corey LaJoie didn’t finish as high in the final point standings (31st) as he had in years past, but his numbers revealed what most would consider a career-best year. The 31-year-old scored career-best for a season in top 20s (15), top 15s (7), top 5s (1), average finish (24.3), and laps led (31).
LaJoie’s 2022 season highlight came while leading laps late in the spring race on the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway. The No. 7 Spire car had a legitimate chance at victory, but Chase Elliott did what a champion does and outmaneuvered him for the win, which ended with LaJoie in the wall and finishing fifth, his best-ever career result.
There were also some lowlights for both the No. 7 and 77. LaJoie didn’t finish better in the final points because he recorded an ugly eight DNFs. The other Spire car featured a rotational lineup of drivers, with Landon Cassill and Josh Bilicki splitting the majority of the races, except three, which were piloted by Mike Rockenfeller and Justin Allgaier.
The No. 77 team finished 33rd in the points standings and kept pace with LaJoie, posting eight DNFs as well. Cassill drove the car to its season highlight, a fourth-place finish in the late summer race at Daytona.
Overall grade: B-
When grading a team’s performance, there are a lot of things to consider, including comparing it to the previous year’s performance, potential new drivers and crew, and most importantly, on-track results. But the final number in a box score only tells part of the picture.
That’s the season for Spire. The overall numbers don’t look great with finishes of 31st and 33rd, respectively, but LaJoie is a prime example of the numbers don’t tell the full story. Yes, there were the typical small-team struggles, including loose wheels and crew chief suspensions, but there were also two top-5 finishes, which were the best since Justin Haley pulled off the improbable, with the help of Mother Nature, and won at Daytona in the summer of 2019.
All things considered, Spire outperformed over its previous season and should be rewarded for such an effort with a grade of B-.
By the numbers
2021 | 2022
|No. 77 |
(Bilicki, Cassill, others)
2021 | 2022
|Wins||0 | 0||0 | 0|
|Top 5s||0 | 1||0 | 1|
|Top 10s||1 | 1||3 | 1|
|Top 20s||9 | 15||3 | 5|