LaJoie holds off Larson in K&N Pro Series
In its history at Iowa Speedway, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series has never had a repeat winner in its combined East-West races.
That streak continued Friday night when Corey “Super Shoe” LaJoie was able to live up to his nickname by giving a dominant performance in the Pork Be Inspired 150, then giving his shoes to two young fans as part of his interesting celebration.
“They probably can’t wear them yet, and they only got one,” a shoeless LaJoie said after the race. “I usually only give away one and keep the other hanging on the trophy, but I felt bad.”
After pole-sitter Cale Conley paced the field for the first five laps, LaJoie took the point and began an impressive stretch that concluded with 134 laps led. Grimes native Brett Moffitt gave LaJoie his biggest test in the early part of the race, and even temporarily stole the lead after the mid-race competition caution, but LaJoie regained it not long after thanks to a strong lane he found in the bottom portion of the track.
“It’s physics, really. The bottom is the shortest part of the track, so if you can work down there you’ll be faster than the guys up there,” LaJoie said. “Usually I’m a bottom feeder because if you can get worked in, nobody can beat you. When I was able to use the whole racetrack, it was smooth sailing after that.”
It was Kyle Larson that challenged LaJoie the most for the rest of the race, as multiple cautions allowed Larson to close the gap. What could have been the turning point occurred on the race’s fourth caution, which eliminated five cars and red flagged the action. It was during that red flag that imaginations began to run wild.
“I was playing out all the scenarios that could happen. I was thinking that Kyle and Corey were going to battle pretty hard and I was going to be able to drive by,” third-place finisher Sergio Pena said with a laugh. “They raced each other pretty clean and really hard, so it was just a good night of fun racing there.”
“Man, when you’re sitting there in a red flag, no matter if it’s a minute or an hour, every thought you can possibly think of is going through your head,” LaJoie added. “That’s just the way our luck’s been going this year. We’ve had a couple of rough weeks, and luckily we were able to bounce back in a big way and set a statement here.”
That statement wasn’t an easy one to make, however, as LaJoie and Larson were side-by-side for multiple laps off the restart before LaJoie grooved back in and pulled away with about 10 to go. The win was his third of the season and moved him into fourth in the East Series standings behind Moffitt, Larson and Chase Elliott.
“It was going to be tough with about 12 to go, because I could feel my car falling off with about six or seven laps to go,” Larson said. “I hoped I could stay in front of him and get another caution, but it didn’t go that way and we ended up second. I’m not complaining at all though, second’s not too bad.”
Before LaJoie’s celebration in victory lane, Larson and Pena came over to congratulate him, which is apparently common practice in the K&N Pro Series. The drivers’ friendly interaction didn’t stop there, however, as it spilled into the post-race press conference.
“He’s definitely one of the nicest guys in the garage area and it’s really fun racing with him,” Larson said of LaJoie. “He did a heck of a job tonight. It would’ve been nice to beat him, but he would’ve been right there to congratulate me as well.”
“That’s one of the great things about this series — outside of the cars, we’re all pretty good friends,” Pena added. “When you’re battling so close with someone, it’s a bummer if you lose, but you’re also happy for them if they get the win.”