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long curly hair done Corey Lajoie to stand out, but the 31-year-old racer decided in January that it was time to change something. He wanted to draw attention to what he did in the Cup car, not how he looked on the outside.
As part of a personal reboot, Lajoie cut his hair short just before the start of this season.
“Flo no mo,” he said.
Cutting the hair was a symbolic change for the rider, who sometimes had to rely on other means of garnering attention beyond what was happening on the track.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but starting this season with a 16th in the Daytona 500 and a 14th in the Auto Club Speedway – his best finish at the circuit – shows the progress Lajoy and his Spire Motorsports team have made ahead of Sunday’s race. at the Las Vegas Speedway.
Was considered one of the potential sports stars more than a decade ago – Lajoie was selected to the NASCAR Next Class twice, accession Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney And Daniel Suarez in the class of 2012 – lack of funding halted Lajoie’s progress.
In 2015, he did not race in Cup, Xfinity or Trucks. Instead, he served as crew chief for what is now the ARCA West Series. That same year, he spoke with Chad Knaus about a role that could lead him to someday being a crew chief in Xfinity or the Cup before Lajoie decides to resume his driving career.
Five years later, Lajoie gave car owner Rick Hendrick a handwritten letter asking him to be considered as Jimmie Johnson’s assistant after he retired that season. Hendrik called the letter “heartfelt” and said he had never received anything like this from a driver before.
While it didn’t help Lajoie, he continued to find other ways to stay relevant when the only reason he was on TV during the race was “either I crashed or I got in the way of the leaders,” he said. Lajoy launched a podcast and also co-hosted the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lajoy grew his hair out and kept his long flowing mane until a few weeks ago. He cut his hair at the same time he didn’t use social media for a month.
The goal was to “get rid of the outside noise… and reboot,” Lajoie said. “Focus on the important things. Focus on getting better behind the wheel. Be more of a store leader. One of the easiest things to change was the haircut, so I did that and it worked out.”
Lajoie knows a haircut doesn’t affect the performance of a car – though he jokes that with less hair it has less drag – but this approach and attitude can make all the difference in a small team as it competes against the biggest teams in the sport. He says the extra help from Chevrolet this season has helped.
West coast racing at Auto Club, Las Vegas and Phoenix on consecutive weekends can be intimidating for smaller teams like Spire Motorsports., the cup shop has 37 employees. It’s important to complete the Daytona 500 without a crashed car and then complete three races in the West. Be collected in rubble or have other problems, and this can make it difficult to get back.
That is why the first two results of the season are so important for Lajoie and his team.
“My stats are improving every year,” said Lajoie, who had a career-best 24.3 average and his first career top-five finish in the Cup last season. “The group around me keeps getting better every year.”
While Lajoie made 202 starts in the Cup, he often faced big chances to finish in the top half of the field. This is starting to change.
He has four top 15 finishes in the last 10 races since last season. During that time, he has made it to the top 20 six times. Lajoie averaged 19.6 in the last five playoff races last year (his average in the first five playoff races last year was 24.2).
Lajoye failed to finish in the top 15 at the Fontana, Calif. circuit last weekend due to multiple incidents that eliminated his competitors. He deserved his finish. Lajoie finished 11th in the middle running position for the race and scored a stage point – only the fourth time in recent races with 47 points that he had scored a stage point.
“I think we’ve shown glimpses of what we’re capable of,” Lajoie said. “It’s hard to accept that because everyone else is good, all pros, they’re all paid big money to make race cars go fast, but I think I’m just as capable as a lot of the guys out there to be able to do This. I think our team is capable of getting into the top 20 if we play regularly enough.”
2. How long will it take Kyle Bush hold the cup record?
What stands out about Kyle Busch’s record of having played 19 consecutive seasons in the Cup with at least one win is that he did so at the age of 37, meaning he’s won the Cup for over half of his life.
The question is how long it will keep the brand. It is possible that the opponent Joey Logano can take it away from Bush before Bush is 50 years old. Busch’s record is one of the few Cup career metrics available to active riders – as opposed to Richard Petty’s 200 career wins.
Busch’s win last weekend at Auto Club Speedway broke the tie he had with Petty for most consecutive seasons with a win.
“There aren’t many records that you can break that Richard Petty has, and of course, this was one that I set at the beginning a long time ago and that I always wanted to reach and get,” Bush said. “So I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to set that bar and would love to keep raising it.”
The next active driver after Busch is Logano, who has won at least one Cup victory in 11 consecutive seasons. He is tied for 14th on the list with Dale Jarrett (1993–2003). Kevin Harvick (2010-2020) and Brad Keselowski (2011-2021).
If Busch doesn’t win another Cup race after this season – which is highly unlikely – it will take Logano until the 2031 season to break the mark. Logano would have turned 41 that year. Bush would have been 46 that year.
Even if Bush wins a couple more Cup seasons, Logano will still be young enough to stand a good chance of surpassing Bush’s total.
If not Logano, who can challenge Bush?
Chase Elliot has won at least one race in five consecutive seasons. It will take him until 2037 to reach 20 straight years with a win. Elliott will turn 42 after this season.
Denny Hamlin has won at least one race in four consecutive seasons, but he is 42 years old. Hamlin will have to race until 2038 to break Busch’s record and will turn 58 right after the season.
Alex Bowman also won at least one race in four consecutive years. He will turn 30 in April. In 2038, he will be 45 when he can beat Bush’s current mark.
Then there are others further behind.
- Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will have to win each of the next 19 seasons to surpass Bush’s current record. It will be in 2042 and this season Stenhouse will be 55 years old.
- Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace would need to win every year until 2040 to break Bush’s record. That year, Larson will be 48, Wallace 47, and Bell 45 (he will be 46 after the season).
- Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez would need to win every year until 2041 to break Bush’s record. Suarez will turn 49 before the start of the season, while Chastain will turn 49 after the season.
- Ty Gibbs, the Cup rookie who takes Busch’s place at Joe Gibbs Racing this season, could surpass Busch’s 2042 record if he wins a race every season from this year onwards. Gibbs, who is 20, will turn 40 this season.
Another career milestone that an active driver can eventually overcome is consecutive starts.
Kevin Harvick started his 750th straight start at Auto Club Speedway last weekend and is third all-time in the category.
Harvick won’t go any higher as this is his last cup season. Jeff Gordon holds the record for 797 straight starts. Ricky Rudd is next with 788 straight starts.
The next highest active driver after Harvick on this list is Martin Truex Jr., who had 614 straight starts. Assuming the Cup continues to hit 36 points for the season beyond this year, Truex won’t break Gordon’s mark until the start of the 2028 season. At the time, Truex would have been 47 years old.
After Truex comes Logano. He made 506 starts in a row. Again, assuming the Cup continues to score 36 race points for the season, Logano will not surpass Gordon’s mark until the start of the 2031 season, when Logano will be 40 years old.
How about some others?
- Brad Keselowski starts 474 times in a row. The 39-year-old won’t be able to top Gordon until the 2032 season opener, when Keselowski turns 48 (February 12).
- Hamlin (321 consecutive starts) will set the record for the 2036 season. At that time he would have been 55 years old.
- Elliott (254 consecutive starts) will need to go into the 2038 season to surpass Gordon’s record. Elliott would then have been 42 years old.
- William Byron (182 consecutive starts) could surpass Gordon in 2040. Byron would have been 42 at the time.
- Rookie Cup Noah Gragson (two consecutive starts) will surpass Gordon’s streak at the start of the 2045 season, months before he turns 47.
3. RCR Growth
Kyle Busch’s win over the weekend was Richard Childress Racing’s fifth win in the last 21 races.
RCR has more wins in this stretch than in the previous 306 races. During this time he won only four times.
Tyler Reddicknow with 23XI Racing, won three times for RCR last year. Austin Dillon won the regular season finale in Dayton and then defeated Bush.
Here are the teams with the most Cup wins in the last 21 races:
5 – Richard Childress Racing
5 – Hendrik Motorsports
3 – Joe Gibbs Racing
2 – Stuart-Haas Racing
2 – Team Penske
4. Honoring your brother
Max Gutierrez is due to compete in today’s Craftsman Truck Series in Las Vegas after missing…