Someone who deserves a pat on the back after Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway is Corey LaJoie.
LaJoie was driving a special CorvetteParts.net paint scheme honoring the 50th anniversary of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Scooby-Doo, and that would have been enough to make headlines, but LaJoie put in a hell of an effort getting a solid finish for the No. 32 Go Fas Racing team.
LaJoie, 28, was slated to roll from the grid from the 28th position, but unfortunately his No. 32 car was one of four that failed post-qualifying inspection. This meant LaJoie would have to start from the rear of the field.
At a track where last place starts the race nearly a half-lap behind the leader, it was shaping up to be a long day for LaJoie.
On the opening run of the race, LaJoie would fall a lap down to the leader Denny Hamlin, but just as he went a lap down the first caution of the day came out for debris on lap 28. As LaJoie was in the free pass position, he would be placed back on the lead lap.
LaJoie would call for more rear grip under this yellow flag.
By the end of Stage 1, LaJoie had worked his way to his original starting position of 28th, but he was again a lap off the pace. However, as LaJoie took the green flag for Stage 2, he would get a caution for a spinning Ty Dillon at lap 178. This would give LaJoie the opportunity to stay on the track, while the lead lap cars pitted. As a result, LaJoie would take a wave around to get his lap back.
LaJoie would restart in 23rd-place on the lead lap, but with older tires he and his team were hoping for a quick caution to get back on pit sequence with the field. LaJoie’s hopes were not answered and he would again lose a lap to the leaders before the end of Stage 2.
However, debris from Clint Bowyer’s car caused a caution with less than 10 laps left in the Stage. This gave LaJoie and the Go Fas team another chance at taking the wave around. They took it, and he was back on the lead lap again.
LaJoie held onto the lead lap for the next four laps and when the caution came out at the end of Stage 2, he got his chance to get back on sequence with the leaders.
Spotter David Pepper asked LaJoie if he was ready for his Scooby Snacks under this caution. LaJoie would continue to cruise in the second half of the race as he worked his way inside the top-20, however he found himself a lap down for the fourth time on the day.
But when Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez got together to bring out the caution on lap 377, LaJoie was in the free pass position once again.
Over the next couple rounds of pit stops the No. 32 team would get the job done on pit road as they picked up a total of four positions on two stops. This put LaJoie in the 18th position with less than 120 laps remaining.
However, with the blistering pace that Martin Truex Jr. was setting, LaJoie would fall a lap down for the fifth different time on the day.
However, when Clint Bowyer spun out with 50 laps remaining, LaJoie was able to take yet another wave around. This time, LaJoie would be on the lead lap to stay.
With 24 laps to go, LaJoie would restart from his highest position of the day in 13th. Ultimately he would slip back to 18th over the final run, but still, on a day where he had to start from the rear and then went down a lap five different times in the race, LaJoie was able to get a solid lead-lap top-20 finish.
Following the race, LaJoie took to Twitter to let everyone know that finishing 18th at Martinsville after starting in the back was equivalent to winning a grandfather clock for his little race team.
To finish 18th, on the lead lap after starting last at @MartinsvilleSwy is a WIN for our @GoFasRacing32 team. #StackingPennies pic.twitter.com/VYAT9OjYon
— Corey LaJoie (@CoreyLaJoie) October 27, 2019
This marks LaJoie’s seventh top-20 finish for Go Fas Racing in 2019, which tops Matt DiBenedetto’s team record of six in 2018. 18th is also the organization’s best all-time finish at Martinsville. Their previous best effort at the paper clip was a 28th-place effort by Kyle Fowler back in 2014.
LaJoie sits 29th in the championship standings with three races left in the year.