HAMPTON, Ga. — Corey LaJoie keeps stacking pennies. Or in this case, points.
After crashing from the lead on the final lap of last summer’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, LaJoie responded with a clean car — and his career-best result — Sunday in the Ambetter Health 400.
“Fourth place is a solid day for the No. 7 Celsius Chevy team,” LaJoie said after the race. “Our Chevy drove great. We were able to pick the right lanes at the right time, just a little short.”
LaJoie qualified his Spire Motorsports car in 26th on Saturday and slowly picked his way through the field during the race. He got up to 20th at the end of Stage 1 and 10th at the end of Stage 2.
Throughout the final stage, LaJoie kept his car in the mix but could never quite burst his way to the lead. Coming to the white flag, LaJoie, who ran seventh, got a run out of Turn 4 and pushed Joey Logano into Turn 1.
Both drivers benefitted. Logano went on to dart past Brad Keselowski and win the race while LaJoie notched the second top five of his career.
“I hope [Logano] gives me a shout-out for pushing him. Gave him a good shot there at the end,” LaJoie said. “I was probably fourth or fifth in the top lane there. I had an opportunity to get down and as soon as I didn’t take it, I was like – man that was the race. That was probably with 18 or 20 to go. That’s why these guys make millions of dollars … they’re pretty good and know where to put their car.”
Logano, who raced with LaJoie growing up, praised the 31-year-old veteran after the race.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised by it,” Logano said of LaJoie’s run. “They’ve given him a really good race car, good-handling race car, that can go fast and be able to allow him to make some moves on the racetrack. He made some good moves there toward the end. Obviously, he got himself a good spot.”
LaJoie had developed a knack for pack-racing success at the newly reconfigured speedway. In addition to his near win last summer, LaJoie’s only other top five in the Cup Series came in last year’s spring race. He’s also had top-10 finishes at both Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
“I think as this track gets a little more wear and abrasiveness to it, it’s going to be like old Daytona,” LaJoie said. “You’re bumping and sliding around, and your car has to be fast. I felt like the track lost 10 to 15 percent of grip from last year, so handling was a big thing. You could really drive or push if you wanted to, or you could be sideways.”
With four finishes of 20th or better in five races, LaJoie currently holds the 14th Playoff position. Prior to Sunday, LaJoie’s best result of the season came at Auto Club Speedway, where he finished 14th.
LaJoie will look to continue his successful 2023 campaign in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. The race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.