WWTR Cup Preview

Corey LaJoie

A seed Corey LaJoie planted more than three years ago finally bore fruit.

LaJoie, you’ll remember, delivered a hand-written letter to Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick at the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in 2020.

At the time, Hendrick was pondering possible successors to seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who was retiring from full-time Cup racing at the end of the season.

The ride went to Alex Bowman, but LaJoie’s outside-the-box job application clearly made an impression.

When NASCAR parked Chase Elliott for one race for landing an ill-considered right hook on the No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, Hendrick turned to LaJoie as Elliott’s replacement in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter at World Wide Technology Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

LaJoie has performed creditably in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet this year and enters Sunday’s race 19th in the Cup Series driver standings, but this is his first chance to race in elite equipment in NASCAR’s top division.

“The last 24 hours have been surreal,” LaJoie said on Wednesday. “Despite the circumstances, I’m very appreciative of Mr. Hendrick for the opportunity to fill in for a championship team and driver. I also can’t thank my Spire Motorsports family for working with Hendrick Motorsports to make it come to fruition.

“The level of preparation and expectations to succeed are everything I expected them to be. I was able to spend time with (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and the No. 9 guys at the shop, and the pursuit of perfection is evident the second you walk through the door. I’m ready to climb through the window and get to work.”

With LaJoie driving the No. 9 Camaro, full-time NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series driver Carson Hocevar will make his Cup Series debut in the Spire Motorsports ride. Driving for Spire, Hocevar finished eighth in Monday’s rain-delayed Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte.

Joey Logano won last year’s inaugural Cup event at World Wide Technology Raceway on the way to his second championship. Brad Keselowski will make his 500th start in the series in Sunday’s race.


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