Drivers and sports analysts will tell you that some of the most intense racing happens in the middle of the pack.
With only one top-10 in 2021, Corey LaJoie did not earn bettors a lot of money unless they were prescient enough to place a wager on him for the Daytona 500. And given the sheer volume of dark horses for that race, it may have been a coin toss as to whether he made even that particular list.
There were reasons for him to be on the radar, however. LaJoie was part of one of the most dramatic finishes in NASCAR when Ryan Newman landed on top of him in the 2020 edition of that race. His damaged car finished eighth, which was his second consecutive Daytona International Speedway top-10 and his third career top-15 there.
He proved his Daytona skill was not a fluke in 2021 with another ninth-place finish and narrowly missed the top 15 in the regular season finale with a 16th.
LaJoie has been solid at Talladega Superspeedway as well. One must go back a few seasons to find his only top-10 there, but in 2019 he finished 11th and seventh. He was 16th the following spring. This year, he missed the top 20, but not by much with a pair of 22nds.
One may be tempted to write this off with the caveat that anything can happen on carburetor-restricted superspeedway – and to some degree they are correct. But when a driver shows this kind of consistency, he's worth considering when the top-10 line is significantly positive.
Top-10s are not the only way to gauge strength. For a team like Spire Entertainment, top-20s are solid results and LaJoie landed there about 25 percent of the time. If you are using the NBC Sports Edge posts to help set your fantasy lineup, it is also notable that LaJoie finished better than he started in 22 of 35 starts (62.9%). That consistently added place-differential points to your DraftKings lineup.
Of the eight races in which LaJoie did not match or exceed his 2022 ranking of 30th, seven of these came with an asterisk: He finished behind the wall with crash damage three times, blew an engine once, broke a rear end once, and was significantly slowed by damage on two occasions.
Three Best Tracks *
Daytona (18.4 in 10 attempts)
Talladega (20.6 in 8)
Charlotte oval (24.3 in 8)
Three Worst Tracks *
Phoenix (32.3 in 9)
Homestead (32.2 in 5)
Watkins Glen (30.3 in 3)
Victories: None (Best finish = 9th at Daytona I)
Top-fives: 0 (.000)
Top-10s: 1 (.029)
Top-15s: 3 (.086)
Top-20s: 9 (.257)
2021 Finishes at or above rank = 30 (77.1%)
* Active tracks with three or more starts