By Brian Smith
Funny things happen at the end of NASCAR races that lead to one person or another winning. Usually it’s a wreck, someone runs out of fuel or maybe, in the oddest of circumstances, a bird lands on the track. But it’s safe to say that the kind of thing that happened to Corey LaJoie in the Friday, Sept. 28 race at Dover International Speedway doesn’t happen very often.
LaJoie won the “American Real TV 150” NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at the Monster Mile, outracing pole sitter Darrell Wallace, Jr., as well as Brandon McReynolds. But it was an incident that started with four laps remaining – and included an assist from Brandon Gdovic – that sent LaJoie and his No. 07 Sims Metal Management Ford to Sunoco Victory Lane, and left Wallace and McReynolds as less than happy campers.
LaJoie and McReynolds, who are longtime friends, were racing for the lead at that point when LaJoie, who had the inside line, came up the track and caught the front end of McReynolds’ car with his rear bumper. The contact knocked LaJoie’s bumper cover loose and left it hanging off the car, bringing out the caution.
LaJoie tried in vain to shake the cover off the car to avoid having to pit and lose his position, but couldn’t get it done himself. He was just about to be black-flagged by race officials before Gdovic showed up and used his own car to knock the fiberglass panel free, setting the stage for a green-white-checkered showdown.
On the green flag, McReynolds was late getting off the gas, setting LaJoie free to drive off to the win with Wallace in pursuit. Afterwards, neither the second- nor third-place driver was very happy with the outcome, feeling LaJoie should have been forced to pit.
“I really believe [Wallace] or us had the best car to beat,” McReynolds said. “Our restart was pretty terrible, but it all started when I got a good run on the top and got to the outside of the 07, and he just stuck me in the fence.”
LaJoie understood his friend’s disappointment but had his own perspective.
“He’s coming out here and his one goal is to win the race,” LaJoie said. “He’s driving his tail off trying to win the race, and I’m thinking about points and trying to win the race too. It’s just one of those deals where the spotter called it real late and I’m a foot deep in the gas, and just came up and caught him with the rear bumper.”
The race proceeded cleanly through the first 30 laps until Chase Elliott blew a right-front tire and caught the wall, bringing out the first of six cautions over the next 45 laps before the midway break in the race for a competition caution.
Afterwards, the race had no incidents for a good 30 laps until Jesse Little blew a tire and hit the wall in Turn 4.
LaJoie and Brett Moffit then put on a show coming off the restart. Moffitt took the lead off the restart on the inside, but the cars made contact and Moffitt was forced down into the apron, falling back to 10th while Lajoie drove off with the lead. It ended up not mattering much for the points leader, as his engine gave up 10 laps later.
It was LaJoie’s fourth victory of the season and his second in the last three races. It was his first career win at Dover, where he’d come close before – he had a second and a third among three previous starts.
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