Corey LaJoie has openly been optimistic about the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season and the debut of the Next Gen car. That’s what happens when your lap times in testing sessions are much closer to the big-name drivers and big-budget teams than they ever were in the Gen 6 car.
Not surprisingly, the 30-year-old driver brings that confidence with him into the season-opening exhibition, the Clash at the Coliseum in LA. He expects a top performance from his team on Sunday.
Interestingly, LaJoie also knows if this event is successful like he hopes to be, it could lead to other opportunities to race in notable venues around the nation. He has one specific stadium in mind.
Corey LaJoie runs well in Next Gen car tests
Corey LaJoie and the rest of the Cup Series drivers have heard and talked about the Next Gen car for years now. Throughout the car’s development cycle, drivers have performed tests on various tracks. The number of tests increased significantly in the last few months leading up to the car’s debut.
LaJoie was involved in multiple sessions, including Charlotte and Daytona. He posted a top-10 time during one practice at Daytona, but it was what happened at Charlotte in mid-December that opened some eyes.
On the first day of practice, he finished dead last out of 18 drivers in one session using the six-inch offset spoiler with a time of 30.743, more than a second behind Joey Logano. He moved up to 13th in the second round on that first day.
On Day 2, he dramatically improved. During one test with the six-inch spoiler, he finished sixth ahead of Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott. He impressively replicated that effort in the second session that day with the four-inch spoiler, finishing ninth overall.
High expectations for Clash and 2022 season
After successful testing and realizing that he had the speed to run with the big dogs, it’s not at all surprising the driver of the No. 7 car heads into the LA Coliseum with confidence. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a short-track background, where he’s had success, including a win Bowman Gray Stadium, the one facility everyone is comparing to the iconic California venue.
The season-opening exhibition race is one thing. Running competitively in points races when it counts is something altogether different. The Spire Motorsports driver believes that’s possible in 2022.
“This is the best chance I’ve had in my Cup Series career, my Xfinity Series career, probably in the last decade to be competitive and race for, not even a win, just top 10, or just be competitive and rub fenders with guys I usually don’t,” LaJoie told reporters.
Despite that optimism, he’s also realistic.
“I’m confident now until really we get beat back into submission a couple weeks into the year,” he joked. “We still have realistic expectations but the longer I get into this, the more I’m racing around guys and earning respect, I keep telling myself, right, wrong, or indifferent, I’ve paid the dues and I belong in the Cup Series.”
LaJoie has specific stadium in mind for future NASCAR race
LaJoie, who has watched his fan following increase with his Stacking Pennies podcast, was asked if the Clash at the Coliseum is successful, what stadium would he want to see NASCAR go to next. His prompt response revealed that he had already given the question some thought.
“I just keep thinking of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys,” LaJoie offered. “It all depends on the footprint, right. I don’t know what the footprint of the field and how big it is. That’s a state-of-the-art facility down there in Dallas.”
It’s an interesting idea. It has a retractable roof so it would be possible. Jerry Jones has hosted numerous big events there already, including a Super Bowl, Final Four, and the College Football National Championship Game. The 2015 Country Music Awards show took place there.
A combination of sporting events and country music in the past sounds like a NASCAR race waiting to happen there in the future.