Corey LaJoie's Whelen Modified Tour entry at New Hampshire marks a return to his racing roots

Corey LaJoie is no stranger to Modified racing.

The driver of the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series honed his skills racing a Modified in the early 2010s, competing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

However, the 30-year-old hasn‘t raced a Modified in NASCAR-sanctioned competition since the 2015 season. That will change Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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LaJoie recently teamed up with new team owners Michele and Michael Davini to drive the No. 17 Modified with sponsorship from Needham Bank in the Whelen Manufactured in America 100 (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET on FloRacing).

The arrangement, according to LaJoie, was facilitated by his friend and chassis builder Rob Fuller.

“I drove a Modified for Rob Fuller years ago at Thompson, some other tracks, and had some success and had some speed,” LaJoie said. “Either we had bad pit stops or a couple things that wouldn‘t allow us to get to Victory Lane.

“We always enjoyed working together. I drove a Super Late Model for Rob at the Snowball Derby in my first time down there. He‘s always had a belief in my ability, and it‘s cool that now he owns Troyer (chassis company), and he built a brand new car and got linked up with Michael and Michele Davini. They own the car, and he built it through his guys and shop.

“Anytime you see your name on a Modified, it always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - APRIL 03: Corey LaJoie, driver of the #7 Nations Guard Chevrolet, waves to fans onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 03, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) | Getty Images

LaJoie’s return to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour comes at a time when his name is in headlines following a strong run in NASCAR Cup Series competition last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

LaJoie led a career-best 19 laps at Atlanta and was leading the Quaker State 400 with two laps to go before losing the lead to eventual winner Chase Elliott. LaJoie tried to make the race-winning pass on the last lap but ultimately crashed and finished 21st.

While he may have missed out on a visit to Victory Lane in Georgia, LaJoie could have another chance to win Saturday in Loudon, New Hampshire.

In his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour start in 2010, LaJoie was victorious on Atlanta Motor Speedway‘s frontstretch quarter-mile after a late-race battle with 11-time Bowman Gray Stadium Modified champion Tim Brown.

However, the racing on New Hampshire Motor Speedway‘s 1.058-mile oval will be different than what LaJoie experienced in his previous NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts.

ATLANTA - MARCH 05: Corey Lajoie, driver of the #19 Hill Enterprises Pontiac, leads the field during the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Atlanta 150 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) | Getty Images

LaJoie described the racing at New Hampshire as being like “dog fights” because of the drafting element that New Hampshire‘s long straightaways create for the Modifieds.

“I‘ve always enjoyed watching those Modified races at New Hampshire. I‘ve always wanted to do it,” LaJoie said. “There are dog fights and drafting and (they‘re) nerf baring each other. I‘m excited for the challenge.

“I‘ll watch a little bit about how you want to position yourself in the last couple of laps because of the drafts and the crossovers (and) how they work. They‘re kind of unique and specific to Modifieds. In terms of just driving, the Cup cars are a bear around there, and I‘ve always got around there fairly decent. The Modifieds are a beast of their own.”

PODCAST: Stacking Pennies with Corey LaJoie episodes

LaJoie is the latest driver from one of NASCAR‘s three national divisions to expand his schedule to include a foray into grassroots racing. He joins drivers like Kyle Larson and William Byron, who each won grassroots racing events on Tuesday, on the ever-growing list.

LaJoie believes it‘s important for NASCAR‘s top stars to continue bridging the gap between NASCAR’s top divisions and grassroots racing.

“Anytime you can tie the grassroots stuff into the Cup Series stuff, you can make the drivers more relatable. I think it helps both parties,” LaJoie said. “We want those grassroots fans to be fans of the highest levels of the sport, but we also want fans of the highest levels of the sport to be fans of the grassroots stuff, and everywhere in between.”

Beyond New Hampshire, LaJoie doesn‘t know if he‘ll run any other NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events this season.

However, his eyes lit up when he realized the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour finale takes place at Martinsville Speedway on the same weekend as the Xfinity 500 NASCAR Cup Series event.

“That would be bad ass,” LaJoie said. “We‘ll see. We‘ll see how we get through Loudon, and hopefully we have a good run, and maybe we‘ll make a plan for Martinsville. We‘ll see.”