50 Greatest Modified Drivers – Randy LaJoie
“His Father’s Son”
Randy LaJoie was a four-time SK Modified® feature winner at Stafford and he was also the 1996 and 1997 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion. In 1997, LaJoie became the first driver in Xfinity Series history to win $1 million in a single season.
Lajoie, son of Danbury Race Arena legend Don LaJoie, began racing go karts at age 12 and switched to a Sportsman car at Danbury in 1980 at the age of 18. In 1981 he won the track title there. When Danbury closed, LaJoie shifted his racing efforts to Waterford and then to the new SK Modified® division at Stafford. His first win at Stafford came on July 9, 1982. His SK Modified® career lasted only 2 years as he got the attention of former modified champion car owner Bob Johnson, who offered him a ride in what was then called the NASCAR North Late Model circuit. It was during 1982 that NASCAR North visited Waterford and the promoter arranged for LaJoie’s first NASCAR North ride.
With Johnson prepping the cars and his father acting as coach, Randy recorded 2 NASCAR North wins in 1983 and top-5 consistency which resulted in a fourth place finish in the final standings and Rookie of the Year honors. In 1984 LaJoie established himself as a championship contender as he won 5 evens, had the most poles, led the most laps, and finished second in points. It was also during 1984 that he ran his first NASCAR Cup Series race in Atlanta where he qualified 14th and finished 16th. His success in NASCAR North carried over to 1985 when he won 7 races and was crowned division champion at seasons end.
In 1986, LaJoie picked up and moved south to seek his fortune on the elite Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series circuits. He discovered he was a small fish in a big pond and had to resort to working as a fabricator for various teams picking up only occasional rides. Never losing his determination, LaJoie filled in for Jimmy Spencer in 1989, driving for Team 34 while those on the inner circle started to take notice. During the early 1990’s, LaJoie drove for Dick Moroso and even did a brief stint in a NASCAR Cup Series car owned by Cale Yarborough.
Everything came together in 1996 when he was hired by BACE Motorsports and was taken under the wing of crew chief Steve Bird. With the BACE car and Bird’s direction, LaJoie got to show his stuff as he posted 5 wins, 2 poles, 11 top-5, and 20 top-10 finishes, which ultimately led to his first Xfinity Series title. In 1997, LaJoie repeated as the series champion and again posted 5 wins including the season opening Goody’s 300 at Daytona. LaJoie continued to race in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series until he retired from racing following the 2006 season.
By: Phil Smith