WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Bowman Gray Stadium is full of history. On Saturday night, Corey LaJoie made a little of his own.
LaJoie made racing look easy on the plucky Bowman Gray Stadium track, leading 118 laps and holding off Darrell Wallace Jr. on a green-white-checkered restart to post his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150.
At a track boasting victories from some of the sport's greatest like Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Glen Wood, LaJoie became the 122nd feature winner in Bowman Gray history. And the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and Connecticut native Randy LaJoie did it by learning from a painful lesson one year earlier.
In the inaugural K&N Pro Series visit to Bowman Gray in 2011, LaJoie posted the first of his three career runner-up finishes in the series. It came after a chance in the outside lane on a GWC restart – a chance he couldn't capitalize on when Matt DiBenedetto held him off for the win.
He wasn't about to let the same thing happen again this time around.
“When that caution came out on that green-white-checkered, I was like, 'Oh, no. Same song and dance here,'” LaJoie said. “But I said, 'I'm going to be on the right side of this one,' and not the wrong side like last year.”
Wallace settled for second, but he had company on the track's frontstretch when he climbed out of his car. Brett Moffitt, who had been holding onto second place heading into the final restart on Lap 152, confronted Wallace about his driving tactics and the two had to be separated by both track and series officials.
Bryan Ortiz finished third. Harrison Rhodes, a local native of High Point, N.C., was fourth in his first career start, and pole-sitter Kyle Larson rounded out the Top-5 after leading early in the going.
“We'll definitely take a second after the type of season we've been having,” Wallace said. “I'm glad to finally see 'Super Shoe' put it in Victory Lane. That was awesome.”
After being credited with leading the first lap from the outside pole, LaJoie took the lead for good from Larson on Lap 37. It came on a restart in which he passed Larson in the outside lane, something LaJoie had been able to do all night with a car that really cut through the corners and powered off down the straightaways.
“Right from the drop of the green flag,” LaJoie said. “I kind of got stuck there (on the initial start of the race) when they were lining up on the bottom, so I had to go. My car was really good no matter where it went, and it just stuck on the high side and I made it work.”
And by making it work, he made history.
“It's awesome. It's just an elite group of people (who have won at Bowman Gray),” LaJoie said. “I have a long, long, long way to go to catch up to the prestige of those guys. I'm just glad to get into Victory Lane once and break that barrier.”