LaJoie had come into Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lot of confidence. He finished in the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which was reconfigured in the offseason and races more like a superspeedway now.
He had also ran strong at NASCAR’s traditional superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega (he finished 14th at both).
As Sunday’s race wound to its conclusion, LaJoie and his No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet had found their way up front and he was the leader on a restart with three of 260 laps remaining.
With one lap remaining, Elliott – who led the most laps in the race (96) – got around LaJoie to regain the lead. On the start of the final lap, LaJoie got a big run and tried a pass on Elliott in an attempt to regain the lead and secure his first career victory.
Elliott, however, blocked his advance and LaJoie was sent darting up the track and into the Turn 1 wall, which triggered a wreck that forced NASCAR to throw a caution which secured Elliott’s win.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever been (to a win). For sure, that was fun,” said LaJoie, who visited with Elliott in Victory Lane after the race. “I’m so proud of my guys at Spire.
“It was nice to have that thing out in the wind for once. I made my move. It didn’t work out. He made a good block and the siren’s ringing in Dawsonville unfortunately.
“I wish that No. 7 car was in Victory Lane but if we keep running like this consistently, our time will come.”
LaJoie, 31, ended up being scored 21st and the last car on the lead lap after his involvement in the last lap wreck, hardly an indicator of his performance in the race.
He led three times for 19 laps, all in the final stage. It’s the most laps he’s ever led in a race and his 20 led so far this season is the best of his career.
“I was going to school,” LaJoie said of the final restart. “This is the first time I’ve been leading a restart in one of these superspeedway-style race tracks and how much you have to drag back, time your runs, cover the lanes – it was all new to me.
“When I get myself in that position again, I’ll be a little more prepared and hopefully we can do a little better job and be the one throwing those blocks instead of the one trying to make that late-race move.
“I was having fun. I know that. Hopefully, we can have that No. 7 car up front more often.”