Top Dog: Corey LaJoie
Long green flag runs, you say? That can only spell disaster for an underdog.
Dover Motor Speedway has produced plenty of entertainment in its 54 years of existence. But one characteristic in several races has been the length of long, strenuous green-flag runs.
While there were multiple cautions for cause in the rain-caused postponed edition on May 1 for the NASCAR Cup Series, that characteristic appeared again throughout the race, with the longest run spanning nearly 130 laps.
However, while underdogs typically struggle to even crack the top 20 in such races, that was not the case on Monday. In fact, Corey LaJoie‘s No. 7 team, who found themselves trapped in races with long runs in previous years, topped the underdogs with a 14th-place run.
LaJoie made an impressive climb to that result from the beginning, starting 27th after qualifying was rained out (shocking!) on Saturday. Mired outside the top 20 for the first 80 laps, crew chief Ryan Sparks called for two tires on lap 86 to get the No. 7 track position.
While LaJoie could not stay within the top 10, the strategy worked out tremendously for him, landing a 13th-place stage one finish.
Stage two would be the real test to see where the 31-year-old would stack up, as the stage went caution-free. He passed it with flying colors, holding serve with a stage two result of 14th.
Former champions such as Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, who had sustained nose damage in an earlier crash, struggled to find pace throughout the race, as well as many Cup winners. However, LaJoie withstood the longevity of the final stage to keep himself in the top 15, despite going a lap down. That was enough to land him a strong top-15 result – his first since Circuit of the Americas.
It continues a wave of improvement from LaJoie, who sits 22nd in points after Dover.
Where does that speed stem from? He told me at Martinsville Speedway that it’s a continued improvement from the chemistry his team has found and the resources that have helped lift this team from being a backmarker to being a top-20 contender.
It certainly wasn’t as ecstatic of a finish as last year’s Dover runner-up from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but don’t let a 15th-place finish fool you. Prior to that run a year ago, he had one top 10 and nine finishes of 21st or worse. This go around? He has two top fives, four top 10s, and seven top 15s within the first 11 races. That…
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