DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Finding a way to distinguish yourself in a crowded crop of NASCAR talent isn’t easy, even for a guy who started last year’s Daytona 500 with a close-up of his face superimposed on his car.
Carl Edwards handed out business cards before reaching elite driver status. Steve Letarte swept floors before becoming a winning crew chief. So in a world of all things digital and rapid-fire communication through text and e-mail, Corey LaJoie went analog to try to make an impression.
In cursive, no less.
LaJoie, starting his second full season for Go Fas Racing’s No. 32, revealed this weekend that he had reached out to team owner Rick Hendrick to openly express his interest in a ride. The story was first told to RacinBoys.com’s Lee Spencer.
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LaJoie’s method: A handwritten letter that he delivered in person at the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Induction Night on Jan. 31. The note was designed not only to showcase his penmanship, but his desire for a top-tier seat in NASCAR’s Cup Series. The overture also coincides with a vacancy opening up on the No. 48 Chevrolet team upon Jimmie Johnson’s retirement from full-time racing at season’s end.
“I mean, I think you’ve kind of got to stand out,” LaJoie said before Sunday’s Daytona 500 qualifying, where he posted the 37th-fastest speed. “It’s hard to stand out on the race track, especially in the Cup Series, because they’re the best stock-car drivers in the world, driving the best-prepared cars by the best, most-qualified people. So it’s hard to take a 30th-place car and make yourself known. So I have to do some stuff off the race track and sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box a little bit.
“I have nice cursive handwriting, so I figured why don’t I just pen this guy a letter. I don’t think that I should be necessarily the leading candidate, but I would like to think I’d be on the list because just the experience and all the stuff I’ve gained by doing it the hard way. I think I can kind of fit in their mold pretty well.”
LaJoie, 28, posted his best finishes of his journeyman career last season with the Archie St. Hilaire-owned team, recording his first two top-10 results. He said he’s hopeful for improvement this year, with his Go Fas team benefiting from an influx of newer equipment handed down from Stewart-Haas Racing.
But a potential opportunity with perennial contender Hendrick Motorsports would represent a major jump in stature. It’s what helped him work up the gumption to approach the NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner on one of the sport’s biggest gala evenings.
“I was nervous when I gave it to him, because that guy could change my life and my family’s life forever,” LaJoie said. “That’s why I spent extra time. I started writing it around Christmas and finally got it nailed down. I had a couple of rough drafts that my wife scratched up for me. It reminded me how English was my least favorite subject in school.”
His choice of old-school media found a fan close to Hendrick’s heart in Johnson, who caught wind of LaJoie’s plan before the Hall of Fame ceremonies. LaJoie said the seven-time champion vouched for him when he landed his first steady job for BK Racing in 2017. Johnson also endorsed the thoughtful act of putting pen to paper.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Johnson said. “Corey and I spoke a little bit and he was trying to figure out how to stand out and how to really connect with Rick, and when he brought up the idea of a handwritten note, I’m like, yeah. I mean, his phone’s ringing, text messages come in, people are always trying to get to him, and if you really think about the last time he’s had a handwritten note come across his desk, that’ll definitely leave a lasting impression.”
“I got a text from him after he delivered the letter. I know he was nervous about it, but I commend him for pouring his heart out and kind of being a little vulnerable in a sense, and doing something different.”
The competition to be Johnson’s successor in the No. 48 Chevy is expected to be stout. Though other names haven’t been explicitly linked to Hendrick Motorsports, LaJoie may have raised his hand first — all with a flourish, etched in ink.
“It was a letter to say, just keep your eye on me,” LaJoie said. “Obviously, there’s probably quote-unquote better candidates of what the media and the fans might think, but just no reason why I shouldn’t be considered is kind of what I learned.”