Can LaJoie Close The Deal At The Rock?

Corey LaJoie will be required to attend sensitivity training by NASCAR. (NASCAR Photo)
Corey LaJoie enters Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East finale at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway as the championship leader. (NASCAR Photo)

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – Yet another wildly-competitive NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season is going to come down to the wire as the inaugural Classic 3 Championship presented by RCR Racing Museum on Nov. 3 at Rockingham Speedway will determine who will wear the 2012 crown.

Three men will enter “The Rock” with a chance at their first NASCAR championship. And while we don’t yet know who will leave with the hardware, we do know it will be a first-time titlist.

Corey LaJoie is in the catbird’s seat with a six-point lead on Kyle Larson while Brett Moffitt remains in the mix, 16 points out. All three have had their turn atop the standings over the course of the season’s last four months, but only one will hoist the trophy on Saturday.

Adding to the suspense is that this will be the first stand-alone event in series history at Rockingham. The hardware had been handed out at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway – a place the series has visited a host of times through the years – from 2007-11, but the famed mile at Rockingham will provide a new challenge for the championship contenders in 2012.

In addition to having that slim six-point lead, North Carolina native LaJoie also has the most prior experience at Rockingham with three UARA-STARS Late Model Series wins there in recent seasons. All three of those appearances resulted in a trip to Victory Lane, something he’s also done in three of his last four K&N Pro Series East starts this year.

But the contenders should not be overlooked. Larson, the only rookie of the group, has been impressive in the speedway races in his first year in stock cars after coming east from California and open-wheel competition. He won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in late September and has an average finish of 3.6 in five races at tracks .75 miles or larger.

Moffitt is also a formidable foe for both LaJoie and Larson despite the larger deficit. In his fourth full-time season in the series, Moffitt has 21 speedway starts that have resulted in five victories and nearly a top-five average finish.

The points leader for four races in the second half of the season, Moffitt is the most consistent front-runner in the series, having led laps in all but four of the 13 events to date. The Iowan has led the most laps in each of the last two races only to see LaJoie wind up in Victory Lane, the second time at Moffitt’s expense.

It will likely take more than experience, or speed, or momentum to bring it all home on Saturday at Rockingham, however. Moffitt was in championship contention and leading the race at Dover a year ago before he suffered a cut tire with four laps to go, which sealed the title for Max Gresham. This year he’ll be seeking redemption – on multiple fronts – while LaJoie and Larson hope to strike gold in their first title chase.