NEWTON, Iowa – The only thing that was going to beat Corey LaJoie Friday night were the voices inside his own head.
Under a red flag with just 16 laps remaining at Iowa Speedway, LaJoie sat as the leader on the track's frontstretch and imagined all sorts of things about to go wrong. A wheel vibration. A balky ignition switch. A flat tire. Something.
Hard to blame him. When he was still searching for his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory back in May, an alternator wire came loose while he was running second at Iowa and cut his night short. Bad luck has crept up over the last couple of weeks, too – a fire at CNB Bank Raceway Park in Pennsylvania and more issues at Columbus Motor Speedway.
Nothing doing this time around. LaJoie dominated the K&N Pro Series East-West combination Pork Be Inspired 150 so thoroughly he broke his own tradition – giving away not one, but both of his driving shoes, in honor of his own nickname “Super Shoe.”
“When you're sitting there in a red-flag, no matter if it's a minute or an hour, every thought you can possibly have goes through your mind... because that's just the way our luck's been going,” LaJoie said. “We've had a couple of rough weeks, and luckily we were able to bounce back in a pretty big way and sort of set a statement here.”
Kyle Larson finished second, with Sergio Pena third. Michael Self was the highest-finishing West driver in ninth as nine of the Top-10 finishers were from the East series.
But no matter where they finished, they all finished behind LaJoie.
“This is the best of the best,” said LaJoie, who two races in a three-week span this season at Bowman Gray Stadium and Langley Speedway. “It's one thing to win at a Bowman Gray or a Langley or a real short track. But whenever you come up to Iowa, it's a superspeedway compared to what we usually go to. To compete against both the K&N East and West guys and come out on top is incredible.”
LaJoie started on the outside pole and took the lead for the first time on Lap 4. He led until the midway break on Lap 76 and relinquished it only for a brief period following the race's restart.
Larson battled him over the final 40 laps, even taking the lead in the outside groove at several points across the start-finish line. But when Larson washed up in Turn 4 with less than 10 laps remaining, LaJoie was free and clear – and on his way to Victory Lane.
“We ran side-by-side for close to 10 laps in felt like,” Larson said. “He was definitely the class of the field. I don't think I could have beaten him – not unless I got another caution and maybe could cool the tires down or something.”
“I know he was good, and he knows where to put his car to hurt somebody's momentum,” LaJoie said of the battle for the lead. “He was kind of pinching me off when his tires were pretty good, and we just had to roll bottom. I rolled the bottom all night long.
“We were living by it, and I was going to die by it.”
Chase Elliott finished fourth, while point leader Brett Moffitt was fifth. Moffitt unofficially holds a 20-point lead over Larson atop the standings with four races remaining, with Elliott and LaJoie in close pursuit.