LaJoie has always been an underdog, but he has turned a lot of heads in the early races of the 2023 season.
Consistency has the Spire Motorsports driver currently inside the playoffs, posting four top-20 finishes in the first five races.
Going into Atlanta, LaJoie was well aware of the opportunity a race like this presents. Last year, he earned his first ever top-five finish in the first race on the reconfigured track. Later in the year, he very nearly won on the return trip to Atlanta, crashing after a last-lap block from Chase Elliott.
He was again strong this weekend, bettering his previous career-best finish by one position and crossing the finish line in fourth place.
“It feels great,” he said post-race. “It’s like this taboo, second sucks. Fourth is great. Fourth is great for our CELSIUS Camaro and our small team. Just a great points day. We started off the year, West Coast swing, really solid. To come back here, a bit of a crapshoot. To get another career best here..I don’t expect to show up and instantly win a race. You have to keep putting yourself in these positions, like Joey (Logano). That is why he wins all the time, because he’s up front all the time.
“As I get myself some more confidence, race around these guys, these guys see me up there racing with them, our day is going to come.”
He later added: “I hope (Logano) gives me a shout-out for pushing hm…gave him a good shot there at the end. I was probably fourth or fifth in the top lane there. I had an opportunity to get down and as soon as I didn’t take it, I was like – man that was the race. That was probably with 18 or 20 to go. That’s why these guys make millions of dollars.. they’re pretty good and know where to put their car.
“Fourth-place is a solid day for the No. 7 Celsius Chevy team.”
As the track becomes more weathered over time, Lajoie believes that Atlanta could drive like the Daytona of old.
“Honestly, I think as this track gets a little more wear and abrasiveness to it, it’s going to be like old Daytona, where you’re bumping and sliding around, and your car has to be fast,” he explained. “I felt like the track lost 10 to 15 percent of grip from last year, so handling was a big thing. You could really drive or push if you wanted to, or you could be sideways. Our Chevy drove great. We were able to pick the right lanes at the right time, just a little short.”
LaJoie leaves this race 14th in the championship standings, now looking ahead to the first road course of the year at COTA.