Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

2020 Cup Series Season Preview: Corey LaJoie

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 28

Years in Cup: Three

Career Wins: Zero

No longer considered by detractors as a driver that’s incident prone, Corey LaJoie is entering his second season with Go Fas Racing after wrapping up an entire 36-race schedule for the first time in his career.

Prior to 2019, the once highly touted second generation racer struggled getting his foot on the ground with teams such as Humphrey Racing (2014), BK Racing (2017) and TriStar Motorsports (2018), neither whom are around today.

In those tenures, LaJoie wound up with just one top-15 (an 11th in the July race at Daytona in 2017) and a whopping combined total of 12 DNFs due to either crashes or engine failures.

That would all change once LaJoie replaced Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 32 Ford Mustang, finishing 29th in points.

While LaJoie’s season wasn’t an eye opener to some, he was one of the most improved drivers on the Cup circuit, lowering his average finish from a 31.5 in 2018 to a 25.9.

His progression was highlighted with his first two top-10 finishes, beginning with the weather shortened July race at Daytona, where he finished a career-high sixth. He backed it up at the next superspeedway race at Talladega where he ended up seventh.

Despite LaJoie providing the team’s best all around effort since joining the series in 2012, there was uncertainty about his 2020 status after the team announced last November they’ll have some engineering support from Stewart-Haas Racing.

Naturally, rumblings about Xfinity Series star Cole Custer, who drove for SHR in the series, replacing LaJoie increased.

However, GFR owner Archie St. Hilaire wasn’t interested of calling him up as he wanted to keep the Concord, North Carolina native, which became official a month later.

St. Hilaire described LaJoie as a driver that’ll always get the job done when given a task and that his woeful past is all but gone due to his realistic racing approach.

“He doesn’t go out there like he did in year’s past and wreck stuff,” St. Hilaire said. “He listens to what we say and racing for points which I really like because he’s not out there saying, ‘I want to win this race.’ He knows our goal.

“We have a certain group we race with and we want to be better than them every week. We highlight five or six teams that we’re racing on the screen and race against them. Yeah, we’re in the same race with Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Joey Logano – but we’re racing in our race.

“He gets that and that’s been important to us as a small team. Not go out there and tear shit up that costs us a lot of money. He cares as a group and so do we.”

Now with a secured ride at GFR, LaJoie is excited to see how much of an impact he’ll make with a car that’s expected to be slightly better.

“I’m really happy that we were able to work it out so I’m able to drive the No. 32 Mustang in 2020,” LaJoie said. “This group is a lot of fun to go to racing with and I look forward to utilizing these SHR cars and putting together some solid runs. We had some really good finishes in 2019 and I’m excited because with the potential we have going forward, we can make 2020 an even better year.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a two-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.