HAMLET, N.C. – Three wins in a row is impressive at any track, but it is especially impressive at Rockingham, where tire management is imperative and it is easy to get caught up in someone else’s mess. Corey LaJoie has managed to do both extremely well in his last three starts in the UARA Series at Rockingham and has won all three races.
LaJoie didn’t take the lead until the very end of the race, but the only lap that pays prize money is the last one and LaJoie was the first across the line on that lap.
Ronnie Bassett Jr. spun coming out of turn 4 during his first qualifying lap and started shotgun on the field as a result. Through patience and smart driving Bassett managed to come home in second position. Travis Swaim led most of the race with a borrowed motor but stumbled on the last restart, due to a faulty clutch, and ended up finishing third.
The race went green with Swaim and Clay Rogers leading 25 other cars into turn 1 and Rogers was able to come out of turn 4 to the start/finish line with the lead. Rogers led a handful of laps before Swaim was able to get past him and dominate the middle portion of the event. Swaim went on to lead a race-high 56 laps while Rogers was on point for 18.
There were five caution flags during the event with the final caution flying during the green-white-checkered finish to end the event. The first caution of the race was for a spin off turn 2 just before the midway point of the race. As the field went back to green the pack bottled up heading into turn 1 and a fender ended up laying in the groove, which brought out the second caution.
The third caution of the event was for Andy Mercer, whose engine expired in true mosquito-fogging fashion. Mercer dove to the infield grass on the front straight because there were flames shooting out from the firewall. In the end the fire went out and Mercer was uninjured.
As the race went back to green, Swaim’s car struggled to get up to speed, thanks to a faulty clutch, and Rogers was able to swing past and assume the lead. The penultimate caution of the race flew as Rogers lost control of his car from the lead with four laps to go in the race as he exited turn 4. The spin cost him the lead and set up a GWC finish.
As the green came out for the final time of the event, Swaim again stumbled on the start, and surrendered the lead to LaJoie. As the field came around toward the checkered flag, the cars of Rogers and Brandon Jones got together on the back stretch to bring out the final caution of the event. As soon as the caution flew, the race was over and LaJoie was declared the winner.
LaJoie was reminded in the post-race press conference that this was his third consecutive win in a late model at Rockingham. He bemused “I like to call it three for Dale,” in reverence to Dale Earnhardt. “We didn’t qualify well,” LaJoie bemoaned. “I knew what I needed to do. I found a place to run and slowly picked off people when I had a chance. Some people fell out which helped too.”
“We lost an engine yesterday and didn’t get many laps on it,” Swaim informed the media. “We figured out early that we didn’t have a clutch so we tried to stay up front because of that.” When asked about being jacked up by the cars behind him on the final two restarts, Swaim was philosophical. “Yeah, I got jacked up but you expect that with 10 to go. I would have done the same thing.”
On the final restart Bassett went into the first corner on the apron and managed to make it stick when it came time to turn. When asked about it after the race “I didn’t think about it when I did it,” Bassett admitted. “I just stuck it in down there on the bottom and I hoped it would stick, and it did.”
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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