Corey LaJoie celebrated his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory on Thursday at Martinsville Speedway. LaJoie, piloting the No. 53 Curb Records machine, started fifth on the grid and took the lead from pole winner Matt Hirschman 32 laps into the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 200.
LaJoie went on to lead the next 102 circuits until a slow pit stop under the fifth yellow flag of the race. Jon McKennedy took the top spot and led the next 59 laps until LaJoie returned to the lead on a restart with eight laps left.
“I came here for a clock”, LaJoie exclaimed in his post-race interview with FloRacing. “Really and truly as much fun as this was, we got mired back in traffic there on that pit stop, but just a great car.”
LaJoie later gave kudos to the drivers that run in the series on a week-to-week basis.
“These guys are the lifeblood of the sport. These guys drive down from the northeast and they do it for nothing. They do it because of their love for the sport”.
Jon McKennedy secured the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship on Thursday at Martinsville. McKennedy, from Chelmsford, MA, did not have a smooth drive on his way to his first Modified championship.
McKennedy led the field on a restart with eight laps remaining, with eventual race winner LaJoie in fourth. Everything was smooth until turn three when LaJoie tagged McKennedy which sent the 79 machine into Kyle Bonsignore. Despite sustaining damage from the incident, McKennedy finished 12th to earn the series title.
“It’s amazing!” McKennedy told FloRacing after the race. “This is so satisfying. It’s the whole team and that’s what got me here today. I just don’t know what to say as this is unbelievable. I’ve won multiple championships up north, and a handful of modified championships in other series, but being a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion is just awesome. I am so happy!”
LaJoie later apologized to McKennedy in his celebratory interview for the contact with McKennedy.
“I thought I screwed up his championship hopes there for a minute. He caught us up in the fence, but we’ll talk about that later. So kudos to Jon, kudos to Tommy Baldwin Racing for the owner's championship. These guys that run modifieds are real racers.”
McKennedy offered his view of the incident with LaJoie.
“I’m not going to lie getting wrecked there with a few to go was a huge bummer. We had a really good car as the guys gave me an awesome car. I thought we were in a great position. Middle of the back straightaway I felt a good bump and the next thing I know I was totally sideways and out of control. Not too sure what the car behind me (LaJoie) was thinking, but at the end of the day we are champions.”
Hirschman finishes second after nabbing the pole with a time of 18.733s / 101.084 mph. In seven starts this year, Hirshman scored two poles along with the season-opening victory in February at New Smyrna.
Other championship contenders Eric Goodale, Ron Silk, and Justin Bonsgnore took home 7th, 11th, and 29th.
NASCAR veteran racer Ryan Newman finished third.
Bobby Santos and Anthony Nocella rounded out the top five finishers.
Andrew Krause, Eric Goodale, Austin Beers, Tommy Catalano, and J.B. Fortin rounded out the top 10.
The delayed broadcast of the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 200 will air November 1st at 1:00 p.m. ET. on USA.
The series returns to action for the 2023 season opener on February 11th at New Smyrna Speedway.