Corey LaJoie was close enough to taste his first NASCAR Cup Series win Sunday at Atlanta, but he had to get around Chase Elliott on the last lap to take it, and as Elliott freely admitted, that wasn’t happening without a block. LaJoie knew it too, and sent it anyway. The result sent his No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet up the track, into the wall, and into a crash that ended his chances — and locked in the win for Elliott.
“Obviously I knew he was gonna have a big run,” Elliott said, “I didn’t really want to give him the bottom, and I tried to give it one good aggressive block, felt like I had room to give it a second one, and he was just right there on the right side of my back bumper, so it was far enough to the back side of the bumper to launch me forward. I hate it that we tore up some cars but I don’t know what you do — go for the win or don’t, and I’m gonna choose option A every day of the week.”
It doesn’t happen often, but the driver who came out on the losing end of the move fully agreed with the winner’s take.
“Closest I’ve ever been. Man that was fun,” LaJoie told NBC Sports, content with how he took his shot and how it played out. “I made my move and it didn’t work out — he made a good block and the siren’s ringing in Dawsonville, unfortunately. I wish that granny in the front row wouldn’t have been clapping so much — I wish that No. 7 car was in victory lane. But if we race like this more consistently, that time will come.”
LaJoie admitted he was “going to school” when leading on the final restart with five laps to go. “It’s the first time I’ve been leading one of these restarts on one of these superspeedway-style racetracks and how much you have to drag back, cover the runs — it was all new to me, so when I get in that position again I’ll be a little more prepared and we can do a little better job and be the one that throws the blocks as opposed to the one that’s trying to make that late-race move, because that guy is usually in the catbird’s seat. I was having some fun, I know that. Hopefully we can have that No. 7 car up front more often.”
After that TV interview, LaJoie headed down to victory lane to congratulate Elliott personally, demonstrating that the hard consequences of hard racing needn’t always generate hard feelings.