Corey LaJoie is one of the few drivers that can genuinely say he “made it” as the Concord, NC native competes at NASCAR’s highest level on a regular basis. LaJoie cut his teeth through the ranks of short track racing before moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Even though he maintains a busy schedule on the circuit, once a year he makes an effort to climb back behind the wheel of a Super Late Model and compete at the most prestigious race in short track racing, the Snowball Derby.
This will be LaJoie’s fourth trip to Pensacola, Florida and this season he is teaming up with Jamie Yelton and Fat Head Racing in hopes that this is the year that they can bring home the famous Tom Dawson trophy.
“I sold my car about halfway through the summer and now that I have started going down to the Derby I am not going to stop until I win one,” LaJoie told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I have always had a pretty good relationship with Jamie Yelton and I have driven his Late Model Stock Car a couple times. He was building a brand new Hamke car and he kind of worked a deal where I would help build the car and we would load up and go from there.”
Each year he has locked himself into the feature event based on his qualifying lap and has went on to finish inside of the top twenty in Sunday’s 300-lap feature event.
“I feel like the last couple years we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by not having a good game plan in practice and then either something happens or something breaks and we don’t run as good as we should. We have always had the speed we just have to put it all together and run a complete race and a complete weekend.”
There is a vast difference between a Super Late Model and the NASCAR Cup car that LaJoie has been wheeling all year. One of the biggest challenges LaJoie faces going into this race is his recent lack of time behind the wheel of a Super as he goes toe-to-toe with the best in the country who have been competing all season in Supers.
“The competition is tough because these guys race every week and its tough to try and beat guys like Bubba Pollard straight up when you actually do race every week let alone once a year when you try and go down to the biggest race of the season.”
Regardless of the lack of time behind the wheel of a Super Late Model, LaJoie feels that his seat time in the Cup cars will actually serve as an advantage as he heads into the biggest short track race in the country.
“I am way better of a driver at the end of the year than I was in March and I have gotten a ton of seat time with a couple races in Xfinity but most of them in Cup,” said LaJoie. “I have learned a ton on the race track certainly but also I have learned a lot off that I can apply to my Super Late Model. At the end of the day if it’s got four tires and a steering wheel I will drive the piss out of it.”
While LaJoie has competed in some of the biggest races, including the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (FL), he says nothing compares to the pressures that drivers feel on Friday night at Five Flags Speedway when drivers qualify into the Snowball Derby.
“There is nothing more nerve-racking than qualifying on Friday night for the Snowball Derby. I have yet to find anything equally as nerve-racking because you don’t really know what you have because you don’t get to practice at night and obviously you want to be in the top 30 to transfer in. I am certain though that we are going to have the speed, though, to get in through qualifying. “
Story by: Hannah Newhouse – Southeast Correspondent