Career-best finish for Corey LaJoie like a win for Spire Motorsports


HAMPTON, Ga. — Kurt Busch came by to congratulate Corey LaJoie after Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. So did Chase Briscoe.

While William Byron did burnouts on the frontstretch after winning, LaJoie relished his career-best fifth-place finish.

“I think by all measures, we should consider this a win,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. 

The son of two-time Xfinity champion Randy LaJoie, Corey’s talent has not been questioned. It’s just that the opportunities didn’t come his way. Once a touted prospect, the 30-year-old LaJoie saw lack of sponsorship interrupt his career as others continued to race and win. 

He came back focused on Cup, but LaJoie has raced for underfunded teams. His first Daytona 500 in 2017 was with BK Racing and he was told that if he didn’t make the race, the organization likely would have to shut down the No. 83 team.

He made the race and continued to plug along in the series. With a new car that is intended to close the gap between big teams and small teams, LaJoie and Spire Motorsports have made progress this season. 

He crossed the finish line sixth at Atlanta but gained a spot when NASCAR penalized Christopher Bell, who came across the line second, for going below the out-of-bounds line on the last lap to make a pass. NASCAR dropped Bell to 23rd, the last car on the lead lap.

LaJoie’s fifth-place finish finish Sunday was Spire Motorsports’ best result since Justin Haley won the rain-shortened July Daytona race in 2019. LaJoie has scored three top-15 finishes in five races — a feat he had not accomplished over his previous 168 Cup starts. 

He also did it without crew chief Ryan Sparks, serving the first of a four-race suspension after a wheel came off the team’s car at Phoenix Raceway. 

“We’ve been smart, I feel like, all year long,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “Barring last week with the wheel falling off, I think that we had been an 18th- to 22nd-place car, and we have been taking advantage of other people’s mistakes. As long as we continue to keep our mistakes to a minimal, who knows where we’re going to end up. We’re controlling the things we can control right now.”

Even with the new car, he’s had to race smart. He ran the same car at Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas and Phoenix in consecutive weekends. He still managed a top-15 finish at Las Vegas.

LaJoie overcame an incident Sunday that had him sliding through the infield grass at Atlanta to his first Cup top-five result.

“You’re never going to win one of these things by riding the entire day,” he said. “You have to engage and get track position and hold it up for pretty much the first stage. A fifth for us, financially, points, we’re looking at points already. I hit the fence at (Auto Club) and gave probably 10 points (away) up there just from a mistake I did. I was glad I was able to make up those 10 points (Sunday).”

The result is that LaJoie is 24th in the driver standings. He’s four points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and eight points ahead of Denny Hamlin, who is 26th in the standings. 


The tire issues for Ross Chastain, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Tyler Reddick as they ran at or near the front was perplexing for those involved and for Goodyear. 

Stenhouse wondered if running out front was a factor for all three Chevrolet drivers. 

“I don’t know if the speed difference of the way you load into the corner with more air on your race car” was a factor, he said. “The guys in the back don’t have as much load being behind somebody. I don’t know if overloading the tire just killed it. We didn’t see a whole lot of tire wear in practice, so it’s not like you’re wearing it out I believe.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief for winner William Byron, said there could be something to Stenhouse’s thought.

“The speed and having to run pretty much wide open to lead compared to 70% throttle for a full lap to be second or third is definitely putting a lot more stress on the tires, so it’s kind of managing ourselves there,” Fugle said. 

“I was trying to coach William into doing some lifts and just if we could lift a little bit and slow the pace down a little bit and not get passed, then we could save the tires. Definitely at a repave you are always worried about tires. You got hard tires because you have so much load, but eventually you put enough heat in them, and they blow out. Definitely on our mind.”

Atlanta Cup race
Tyler Reddick was among those to have a tire issue and spin while running toward the front in Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tire sales, said Sunday that the company was examining the issues with those three cars.

“Most heavily loaded position on a stock car is right front, so it’s a little bit unique that we’re seeing right rears,” he said. “Varying number of laps. Mostly longer runs. We didn’t see any indication of anything in practice when we had guys with 50-plus laps on tires. It’s a little bit of a surprise. 

“The one thing we do know is it is all the same make. Whether that’s a factor or not, it seems to be more than a coincidence. What’s consistent about setups. That’s just what we’re going to try to figure out.”


With the success of Sunday’s race, which featured a track-record 46 lead changes, the question becomes if Texas Motor Speedway is the next in the Speedway Motorsports family of tracks to be changed to create speedway racing at that track to reignite fan interest.

Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, liked what he saw at Atlanta but isn’t ready to make changes to Texas based off Sunday’s race.

“I had ideas of what it could be,” Smith said of the Cup race after Atlanta Motor Speedway was repaved and had the banking increased in the corners.

“I wasn’t really sure of what we were going to get, but I think NASCAR and the teams have done such a phenomenal job with the Next Gen car. It matched up perfectly with the Next Gen Atlanta track, but we’ve had fantastic racing this year from the LA Coliseum, every race since. I think, as race fans, we’re all blessed to be able to enjoy a really fun ride to start the season out.”

As for what about Texas?

“I’m really excited to get to Texas Motor Speedway and see how this new Next Gen car races there,” Smith said. “When you look at the racing we had at Fontana and Las Vegas Motor Speedway this year, it was by far and away the best racing I’ve seen at those tracks. Different things work in different ways with this new car.”


A total of 31 cars were involved in incidents in Sunday’s superspeedway-style race at Atlanta. 

To compare, 26 cars were involved in incidents in this year’s Daytona 500.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”