Why New-Look Corey LaJoie Is Ditching the P.T. Barnum from His NASCAR Image
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Corey LaJoie no longer wants to stand out in the NASCAR crowd for his appearance or for the way he speaks.
That reset for LaJoie included turning his back on social media and adding a “dry January” to his life.
He may have changed his appearance, but he remains the realist who faces every issue with blunt honesty.
Corey LaJoie, son of two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, grew up in racing, but it’s only been in recent years that he has focused on building his brand and gained an understanding of its importance in his profession.
That brand building has included:
• Beginning a podcast known as “Stacking Pennies”.
• Co-hosting a show on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
• Raising $100,000 for Samaritan’s Feet, a charity that provides shoes for children and individuals in need.
• Writing a letter to team owner Rick Hendrick explaining to him why he should replace the retiring Jimmie Johnson even though he didn’t own stellar statistics.
• Exchanging the long, curly hair he has worn for two years for a short style, giving him a more corporate appearance. It was a move that was one of the most shocking in the sport’s off-season.
“My dad didn’t like it,” LaJoie said about his long hair. “The people who were either signing my checks or I wanted to sign my checks, I don’t think they loved the long hair look. I needed a reset for myself.”
That reset for LaJoie included turning his back on social media and adding a “dry January” to his life. He tried to rid himself of the “outside noise” that plagues race car drivers. The father of two focused on things that mattered, tried to improve his driving and became more of a leader at the race shop. He doesn’t want to stand out for his appearance or for the way he speaks.
“I want to stand out for what I’m doing on the race track and that’s what I want people to start talking about,” LaJoie says. “That’s why I’m changing it up a little bit because … I’ve had to be the P.T. Barnum. I guess that’s a good analogy of making enough noise to build my brand to where it’s not expendable. Now, I’m to the point to where I want to show I’m not expendable behind the wheel either.”
Early in LaJoie’s career, he realized he couldn’t stay relevant and build his brand with the cars he was driving “because the competition was non-existent.”
“I started doing dumber stuff on social media just to stay relevant, because if I was on TV, it was because I either crashed or I was in the way of the leaders because the competition wasn’t there to back it up,” says LaJoie, who is in his third season with Spire Motorsports.
“As the off-track stuff started to gain come traction, it was still limited … because if you’re an active athlete, you are measured by your … on track … performance. I’ve always thought that once the on-track product meets what the off-track work I’ve been putting in, it’s really gonna take off. I’m starting to see some positive growth there, whether its on social media engagements or numbers or partners wanting to be involved in my charitable stuff or on the race car.”
LaJoie always believed in himself and his talent. He knew he belonged in NASCAR’s Cup Series because he had grown up racing with several competitors who were already making their mark in stock car racing’s top level. Those included Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney.
Two races into the 2023 season LaJoie sits 13th in the point standings with two top-20 finishes. However, the 31-year-old LaJoie knows it’s way too early in the season to celebrate. He may have changed his appearance, but he remains the realist who faces every issue with blunt honesty.
The Concord, N.C., resident knows how quickly a career can be on an upward trajectory and then plummet like a rocket that’s lost power.
A little more than a decade ago, LaJoie was named to the 2012 NASCAR Next class of up-and-coming drivers. He began the 2013 season with a limited schedule in the Xfinity Series, then known as the Nationwide Series, with Tommy Baldwin Racing. In June of that year, he signed with Richard Petty Motorsports as a development driver. He made his debut with that team in the 2012 Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead.
“I thought I had the world by the balls,” LaJoie said.
But then Dakota Armstrong appeared and “essentially … bought the seat I was supposed to go in.”
LaJoie’s career plummeted.
“I got bounced around, I started overcompensating, trying to do too much for the cars I was driving and got fired when I was 20, 21 years old,” LaJoie said.
To pay his bills, LaJoie flew to California to work as David Mayhew’s crew chief.
“My career since then is like when you play NASCAR 2007 career mode and you literally start, like the shittiest team,” LaJoie said. “Then you get the next team up and a little text message pops up on the screen, ‘Hey, do you want to drive my car?’ Yes, I do. Actually, let me design this paint scheme right quick as I eat some pizza rolls.
“My career has progressed like that. I can’t really look at anybody previously who has had a similar (career) trajectory.”
Prior to this year, LaJoie and his Spire Motorsports team analyzed the season. First, they excluded the Daytona 500 from their master plan because it’s an anomaly.
“Then you look at your 35-race season and you break it up into seven, five race seasons,” LaJoie explained.
That means the team needs to hit the reset button if there’s a slump or a couple of bad weeks in mid-season. The team is receiving more help from General Motors than in previous years as well as “some other guys to understand the body measurements a bit more.”
“Hopefully, we can sustain the amount of preparation that we had this past weekend,” LaJoie said. “But being a small team that’s where you get behind a little bit with just being able to cross all those ‘Ts’ and dot all those ‘Is’ consistently week over week where the bigger teams can get a little bit ahead of you in terms of preparation. I still think we have a long way to go, but we’re seeing a lot of positive momentum. We have shown glimpses of what we’re capable of.”
LaJoie notes his team is in a “slightly better financial situation” this year than in 2022. It’s also in a better place when it comes to parts inventory for the current NASCAR Cup car and that allows him to “race a little bit harder.”
“Every year prior to this has just been like vulture racing (at Daytona),” LaJoie said. “It’s like you ride in the back all day with no intention to engage, no intention to try and get a Stage point. Then you let everybody wreck, you drive around the crashes and then you find yourself 16th or 17th. This year, the intention was different going into the 500. This year, we actually tried to position ourselves with enough track position to try to find ourselves towards the front at the end.”
LaJoie is still looking for his first NASCAR Cup victory. He appeared on the verge of it in last year’s closing laps during the Atlanta spring race before having to settle for fifth. That’s LaJoie’s best Cup finish in 202 races; however, last year his team produced 15 top-20 finishes.
LaJoie also is winless in 22 NASCAR Xfinity and three Craftsman Truck series races. However, in the ARCA Menards Series, he owns three victories, six in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and one each in NASCAR’s Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour series.
“My stats are getting better every year,” LaJoie said. “The group around me is continuing to get better every year. You have 32, 33 solid cars right now and, yet, my stats are getting two or three spots better every year. That’s a lot of maturity coming from me behind the wheel, understanding the ebbs and flows of how the garage works, how racing works, and my team giving me better cars.”
A continuing path for LaJoie as he builds his brand.