LOUDON, N.H. — In the words of Corey LaJoie: “finally.”
LaJoie took home a long-awaited checkered flag from New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday evening, scoring the victory in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East United Site Services 70 with a dominant second-half performance.
The win was LaJoie’s sixth career in the K&N Pro Series East, his first since 2012 (Greenville) and his first career win at the one-mile Loudon oval.
“When we fired off I was a little bit too free when the sun was on the track,” LaJoie told Race Chaser Online. “I was like ‘Man, I hope this thing comes to me.’ We had that long red flag and the tires cooled back down and it pretty much came to us. I was able to muscle Kyle, get around him and pace myself.”
LaJoie started second and settled in behind polesitter and Ranier Racing with MDM teammate Kyle Benjamin, as the latter led the first 38 circuits of Saturday’s race. He would fall back, then close back up to the bumper as Benjamin started working lapped traffic.
The first caution flew when Dominique Van Wieringen and Reid Wilson got together in turn one on the 32nd round, with Van Wieringen going hard into the outside wall. She immediately put the window net down, but she didn’t exit the car under her own power. Safety officials had to cut the roof off her No. 40 in order to extricate her from the machine.
Fortunately, she was treated and released from the infield care center following the event, explaining on her official Facebook page that she had “a minor concussion and a bruise” but would “be back to the racetrack before you know it.”
LaJoie ended up using the outside lane on a lap 39 restart to garner the top spot for good, sliding by Benjamin and from there, the rest was history. He nailed two late race restarts and put himself in the drivers seat, crusing around the final turns and into victory lane in a race that was pushed two laps beyond its scheduled distance.
The 2012 K&N East championship runner-up held off Todd Gilliland on a green-white-checkered finish, after debris on the track drew the third and final yellow of the day and sent the race into overtime.
“I feel like restarts are one of my strong suits, so I didn’t really mind it coming down to restarts,” LaJoie explained. “Winning this one … it’s like a big old monkey lifting off my shoulders. With all the bad luck I’ve been having (in the NASCAR XFINITY Series) you start to question yourself. Fortunately we pulled this one off.”
Gilliland, who ran inside the top-10 all night, was able to cross the line second, picking up a few spots in the final laps. For the driver of the No. 16 Fire Alarm Services Toyota, it was a solid, first-ever visit to Loudon.
“The car was pretty good all day, we qualified seventh but I felt like we could have got a little bit more out of it,” Gilliland said. “It was a little bit loose off the corners and that made it a little difficult to make passes. It’s just great work by the team, to come home top-three again was just what we needed.”
Points leader Justin Haley continued his stellar season with a third place finish. Benjamin was fourth and Maine’s Austin Theriault rounded out the top five — his second-consecutive finish of fifth or better after a runner-up effort at Columbus two weeks ago.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East returns to action on July 30 at Iowa Speedway, with the running of the Casey’s General Store 150, the annual combination event between the K&N East and West divisions.
Audio with race winner Corey LaJoie:
Audio with second place Todd Gilliland: