Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon has issued some major praise for Corey LaJoie after the NASCAR trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway. He said that the Spire Motorsports driver’s performance and almost-upset win will “go a long way” for him.
Gordon made the comments after Chase Elliott won the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart on July 10. LaJoie and Elliott battled for the win during the final restart, but a “mega-block” sent the Spire Motorsports driver into the wall and secured the win for Hendrick Motorsports.
The organization’s decision-makers responded by explaining that LaJoie’s “Cinderella Story” did not end as he hoped, but he certainly turned some heads while leading the field.
“I like Corey’s attitude and I like his drive. He’s got a lot of passion, and he showed that today,” Gordon said, transcript courtesy of ASAPSports. “It was unfortunate with the way it ended up for him, but I thought he and the team and the car showed a lot today.
“You know, you want a guy like that who has the pedigree that he has, has the passion that he has, and with the work ethic to get the opportunity that he’s searching for,” Gordon continued. “But I think today will certainly go a long way. We’ve got a great relationship with Spire. It was a lot of fun watching him racing hard but also working together there at the end. I kind of wish it could have been a one-two instead of the way it ended up.”
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LaJoie Previously Caught Rick Hendrick’s Attention
The race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is not the first time that LaJoie has caught the attention of Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick. He also did so prior to the 2020 Daytona 500 by delivering a handwritten letter.
LaJoie knew that there would be an opening at Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2020 season. Jimmie Johnson had announced that he would retire and vacate the No. 48 Chevrolet. No one knew who would take over the entry, so LaJoie put his name into the mix by writing a letter to Hendrick and giving it to him on the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Induction Night on January 31, 2020.
The documentary series, “NASCAR All In: Road to Daytona,” provided an in-depth look at the moments surrounding this delivery and some comments from Lajoie about his decision. The cameras followed LaJoie as he prepared for the 2020 season, and they were present for the Hall of Fame Induction Night when LaJoie spoke to Hendrick.
The handwritten letter ultimately did not lead to an opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports. The Cup Series team brought in Kyle Larson and then moved Alex Bowman over to the No. 48. However, the letter still made an impression on Hendrick.
In the wake of Gordon’s latest comments, some NASCAR fans also started connecting the dots again.
Hendrick Motorsports Has Ties to Spire Motorsports
Spire Motorsports is one of the smallest teams in the Cup Series. It doesn’t have the most employees or the largest portfolio of partners. However, the team scored a win at Daytona International Speedway after Justin Haley took advantage of incoming rain, and it has contended at other superspeedway races with LaJoie leading the way in 2021 and 2022.
Spire Motorsports has a partnership with Hendrick Motorsports. The championship-winning organization provides the motors for the No. 7 and the No. 77 entries. This is likely a direct result of co-owner Jeff Dickerson’s time and effort in building Spire Holdings, the parent company of Spire Motorsports. He has relationships with prominent team owners across multiple series, as well as those in other sports through Spire Sports + Entertainment.
“I was proud. I was excited. If we couldn’t win, I really wanted him to win,” Hendrick added during the availability. “We do the motors for them, we do a lot of things with them, and he’s a great guy. I think a whole lot of Dickerson and those guys. That was a Cinderella story, and I would have loved — if we couldn’t win, I wanted him to win because he drove a heck of a race and did a heck of a job.
“He looked as good as anybody in this field out there today.”