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Is Corey LaJoie Making the Right Decision in Staying with Spire?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Yesterday, Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic reported that Corey LaJoie and Spire Motorsports are working on finalizing a multi-year contract extension. However, Bianchi also reported that LaJoie had other teams that were at the very least interested in him, but LaJoie elected to stay with Spire Motorsports.

How LaJoie has performed in 2023 hasn’t gone unnoticed with some bigger teams inquiring about signing him. But while there were other opportunities he could’ve pursued, he made the decision to re-sign with Spire believing the team was taking significant steps toward being a consistently competitive organization.

Jordan Bianchi

If this is the case, then the question is raised about why Corey LaJoie did not take some of these teams up on these offers. Is Corey LaJoie making the right decision in staying with Spire Motorsports rather than moving on to a bigger race team?

Why Stay at Spire?

Corey LaJoie is in the midst of his third full-time season with Spire Motorsports, and he and the team has shown steady improvement every season. Every year LaJoie’s average finish has improved from 24.9 in year one to 24.3 in year two to 19.7 this year. Slowly, but surely, Spire Motorsports is improving, with other teams seeming to take notice as evidenced by the recent partnership with Hendrick Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series.

LaJoie has been the consistent piece at Spire throughout the last few seasons, and the steady improvement over the past few seasons means that Spire could be on the verge of something special. Why would LaJoie not want to see that through? It seems like things are working for him there, so why would he want to say no to it?

This is noteworthy especially considering the fact that Spire is showing an obvious commitment to running well in the sport. They have a hot young prospect potentially waiting in the wings in Carson Hocevar, and one can imagine LaJoie and Hocevar teaming up three or four seasons down the road. Something is definitely brewing there, and they seemingly want to build it around LaJoie.

It’s hard to say no to a team wanting to build around you. Especially a team that seems like it could be on the verge of something special.

Why Leave Spire?

Spire Motorsports is still unproven, and they do not have the same resources as some of the bigger teams in NASCAR. If a bigger team wants LaJoie, then he at the very least has to entertain the offer. The bigger teams with bigger resources can put things around LaJoie that Spire simply cannot put around him.

Sure, his job security may not be as much at a bigger team as it would be at Spire, but being put in potential race-winning equipment could be huge for LaJoie. Especially considering the fact that he has driven a Spire car to the top-15 five times this season, one can only wonder what he can do once he gets settled in a bigger team.

Teams inquired, which means they are interested in him. There is no guarantee that those offers will come back to LaJoie down the line. You have to strike when the iron is hot in NASCAR, or those opportunities could very well pass you by.

Cautionary Tales of Drivers moving up

With that being said, the grass is not always greener on the other side, especially in NASCAR. Some drivers or even crew chiefs have made the move to “bigger” race teams without the same success, as they would have hoped. The question then becomes whether or not they could have stuck it out with their original team, and here are a couple of recent examples.

Matt Dibenedetto

Matt DiBenedetto was a very similar case to LaJoie just a few years ago. He took an underfunded race team in Leavine Family Racing, and he gave them their best season ever in 2019. Rather than stay with them, DiBenedetto made the move to the Wood Brothers the following year as a Penske satellite driver.

The results were mixed. He made the Playoffs in 2020 on points, but he missed in 2021 failing to score a victory in either season. By 2022, he was demoted to the Craftsman Truck Series where he finally won his first NASCAR National Touring Series race.

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray narrowly missed out on the Playoffs in both 2004, despite 23 top-10 finishes, and 2005 as well. Following the 2005 season, McMurray moved on to one of NASCAR’s top teams to replace former champion Kurt Busch. At Roush, McMurray’s performance dipped as he failed to finish in the top-15 in points.

Luckily for McMurray, he was able to make the return to Ganassi in 2010 in the 1 car, replacing Martin Truex Jr. McMurray would finish his career there, winning a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, and making three Playoff appearances. If he had never left Ganassi for Roush, imagine what he could have done.

Casey Mears

Casey Mears had begun his NASCAR career with a couple of solid seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing, but Ganassi was just not quite on the level of some of the major teams of NASCAR. Mears made the move to Hendrick Motorsports, the most dominant team in NASCAR in 2007.

He won his first career race at Charlotte on a fuel mileage gamble, but he missed the Playoffs. In 2008, he was even worse, finishing 20th in points, and he would spend the rest of his career with back marker teams. If he rode it out at Ganassi, where could he have gone?

Conclusion

The grass is not always greener on the other side, and Corey LaJoie seems to be taking that wisdom to heart with this decision. Maybe staying at Spire is the right move, but, if it fails, we may wonder what could have been if LaJoie had taken these offers.

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Joshua Lipowski

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