Two-Time Champ Randy LaJoie Wears Many Hats
"I have yet to bring home one of the coolest trophies in racing, and that's a trophy from Charlotte Motor Speedway," said LaJoie. "I can tell you that getting one of those trophies is at the top of my to-do list. Hopefully, I'll be able to turn my luck around this weekend.
"I always want to do well at Charlotte and I really want to do well since Dollar General Stores is sponsoring the race," added LaJoie, who drives the No. 34 Dollar General Chevrolet. "They will have a couple hundred people there as well as all of their executives, so I hope we can put on a good show."
The first-year team LaJoie is driving for, Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly, wasn't up and running until the second week of January and it struggled during the first half of the season. With time, the team has become more consistent and now has LaJoie comfortably in the top-20 of the NASCAR Busch Series point standings.
"We want to do better as a team, and I want to do better as a driver," said LaJoie. "You have to have a race team that is clicking on all cylinders, that's what it takes to be competitive in the Busch Series. Do I think we can get there? Absolutely! Hopefully, we can get where we need to be over the winter and be better prepared to start the 2006 season."
With 15 victories and two NASCAR Busch Series titles, some might think the 44-year-old LaJoie is ready to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labors. But such is not the case.
"You have to look at guys like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin who are 48 or 49 years old and they are on top of their game," LaJoie said. "They can still go out there and win every race they enter. The only reason they're scaling back is because their sons are racing and they want to spend time with them. They've been in this sport long enough and been smart enough with their money that they don't need to do this anymore. They're not changing because of their age; they're changing because they want to."
In addition to his own career, LaJoie has two young sons, Corey and Casey, who are carrying on the family racing tradition in Legends Cars and Bandoleros.
"I wish they'd play golf," LaJoie said with a laugh. "My oldest son, Corey, is a great athlete when it comes to stuff like baseball and basketball. He's also a very good race car driver, but he hasn't given it his all yet. When you strap into a race car, you've got to be turned on. I guess I just get a little frustrated when I don't see him giving 100 percent. You can't do this at 60 percent so that's something I wish he would try harder at, but I guess that just comes with age and he's only 13 years old.
"When my younger son, Casey, has his driver's suit on, he walks and talks just like my dad even though he doesn't drive like my dad just yet. My dad was an awesome race car driver," LaJoie continued. "Everything I've learned, I learned from my dad. Casey is doing pretty well considering this is only his second year of racing in the Bandolero division. He's also at a point where if he runs 10 laps, four will be awesome and the other ones are just average. When he gets that figured out, it's going to be pretty cool to watch him."
And, as if he didn't already have enough to do, LaJoie has developed a very successful business that manufactures racing seats. Located in Kannapolis, N.C., LaJoie estimates his company, The Joie of Seating, builds seats for about "a fourth of the NASCAR drivers."
"I started with just myself and another guy and now I have 10 full-time employees," LaJoie said. "The seat is actually based on a seat that my dad got from racing legend Mark Donohue when I was 12 or 13 years old.
"He sat down in Mark's car and really liked the way the seat felt, so he bought one. It was a little too big to fit into Dad's modified, so he kept cutting it down until it would fit. He had a guy make a fiberglass mold of it so he could get another seat anytime he needed one.
"So once I got a little older and started driving, that was the seat I'd use," LaJoie continued. "When I'd drive other people's car and use their seats, I'd be black and blue when the race was over because I wasn't being supported properly. The fiberglass seat was a formed seat that fit my body well and wasn't leaving me stiff or sore."
LaJoie went on to explain the differences between his seat and those made by other manufacturers.
"It's a round, form-fitted seat. Everybody else uses a flat piece of aluminum and cuts a pattern out with five or six breaks in it, bends it into shape, puts some padding in it and that's how they do it," he said. "Until I came into the game, all the seats held the drivers by their ribs. My seats are strictly shoulder-supported seats. I found out at a young age that my upper body moved around a lot. It felt like my upper body was going out the right-side window and I was busier trying to hold my body in place than I was driving the car.
"It made me start looking to do something with a seat that held my entire body in place and it helped me a great deal as a driver because I wasn't moving around so much," LaJoie added. "Through the years, the industry has discovered that the less the body moves the better."
After he climbs out of the cockpit, it's not unusual to find LaJoie inspecting cars that were wrecked during a race."I want to know what happened and what we can do to make it better," he said. "I'm not an egotistical guy, because if somebody knows how to make it safer, I want to know. But it's pretty neat to say I'm the only seat maker that actually uses his own product.
"It's getting that phone call from a driver thanking you for keeping them safe. That's what it's all about. I feel it's my obligation to sell my customers something I would buy myself."
Tickets for the Dollar General 300 NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday night, Oct. 14, start at just $17 and can be obtained online here or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.