Corey Lajoie's Strong Start Nets First Top-5

The Spire Motorsports No. 7 has contended for top-15s all year.

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Corey Lajoie has stacked a tremendous number of pennies through the first five races of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

Even though it came with a caveat, the third-generation racer earned his first ever top-five on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway when Christopher Bell was penalized for making an out of bounds pass at the end of the race.

That knocked Bell to the tail end of the lead lap and moved Lajoie up a spot into fifth.

"Pretty damn cool," Lajoie said. "We finished sixth, one guy got tossed, and my paycheck will say fifth, so I do love that. I can't thank my guys at Spire enough. I do like that."

Lajoie leaves Atlanta with three finishes of 15th or better to start the season -- a career best stretch that included topping his previous best finish of sixth at Daytona in 2019. It could have been an even better start if not for losing a wheel last weekend at Phoenix, which cost them a decent run, and resulted in a four-race suspension for crew chief Ryan Sparks.

Lajoie had never even seen post-race inspection until Sunday.

"That’s unbelievable," Lajoie said. "We’re down a crew chief for another three weeks but Ryan was locked in on Slack and trying to help us out with certain stuff. We came in with the intention of treating this like a Superspeedway race, being conservative early and race at the end.

"We had a really fast car and we got after it on that final restart."

The son of two-time Busch Grand National Series champion Randy started 33rd on Sunday and survived his way to the finish on a day with record crashes thanks to the superspeedway nature of the new Atlanta Motor Speedway.

How?

"Don’t crash," Lajoie said. "You put yourself in a position to escape if there is anything in front of you. Got to the bottom. I did escape that one time (Kyle Larson) got to my right rear and went through the grass and was lucky to not get any damage.

"These cars are pretty tough. Sure, if you hit them the wrong way, they can bend, but it’s a good day, man."

Lajoie enters the spring stretch of the season 24th in points, but also having raced inside the top-20 for much of the early campaign. Could the Spire Motorsports No. 7 possibly be a surprise contender for a playoff spot this summer?

"No," Lajoie said with a chuckle. "No. There are tens of millions of dollars between where we are and being a playoff car. You need to have a 14th to 18th place car on speed and I think we’re a 22nd to 25th place car now.

"Now, who’s to say we don’t come back here in July, get a little more aggressive and find ourselves with a shot in the final regular season race at Daytona … we did take a white flag running second. We could put ourselves in position to steal one, but I don’t think we can point our way in yet."