Bonds Run Deep for LaJoie and Flores in “Stacking Pennies”

Corey LaJoie expresses mild regret over the beginnings years ago of his friendship with Ryan Flores. “I wish we had had a lot more foresight to start a YouTube channel,” LaJoie says, thinking of all the viral uncaptured moments during those exuberant early years. “…We were doing some wild stuff.”

What began as a bond between young people and forged by a shared love of racing has grown along parallel paths. From those days of blundering with go-karts, big wheels and late nights working on race cars, LaJoie and Flores have traced their journeys to established roles at the top level of NASCAR, but also as hosts for a loyal audience of podcast listeners.

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That chemistry — years of preparation — plays out every week on the Stacking Pennies podcast. LaJoie currently drives the #7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet in the Cup Series. Flores is a tire changer with Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford team for driver Ryan Blaney. Together they grew through similar challenges on their way to the big stock car leagues.

“I think that’s the cool thing now is that we both worked towards a goal,” Flores said. “I wanted to be a tire changer, he wanted to be a driver and we’ve probably both been beaten pretty well trying to get there, but not to be at that level…obviously he’s not where he wants to be yet. to be in the Series Cup but it was cool to grow together and to be able to ride together on the race track now and to do all that competing in the same race, it’s a big deal.

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LaJoie’s journey has been well-documented, and his career-long knack for grinding against higher odds is reflected in the podcast’s name — a creative reuse of his personal mantra. The 30-year-old journeyman has done a bit of everything from racing through the late model ranks, winning as a driver and crew chief at the ARCA Menards Series, and building racing seats in the shop founded by his father, two-time Xfinity Series Champion, Randy LaJoie.

Flores’ journey took similar turns – BMX racing at age 3, quarterback midgets at age 5, and a stock car leap at age 14. He left his native New Jersey five years later, hoping to join a NASCAR team as a spotter. Shortly after the move in 2006, Flores landed with what was then known as Roush Fenway Racing as a manufacturer.

Mutual friends and relations led their paths to cross in North Carolina. Before long, Flores’ regular routine became the finishing job at Roush Fenway, then heads to LaJoie’s boutique in the evenings to help with her Late Model program and partake in all those shenanigans that YouTube has missed.

“We’d be in the store so late that Randy would call and be like ‘hey, man, you gotta shut it down. I no longer pay the electricity bill, recalls Flores. “You know, working on race cars… 20-year-olds would play video games and we would just build race cars.

MORE: Corey LaJoie Driver Page

Other jobs followed for Flores – welder, tire specialist, mechanic – before he found his calling with over-the-top duty. He was a reserve crew member for Tony Stewart’s final championship round in 2011, then joined Team Penske operations in 2014.

“It takes so much commitment and motivation and sacrifice to get to the level where it is to be a tire changer, and people don’t really understand the mental side of it all,” LaJoie says. “There is the talent to be a professional in quotes, then there is the mind. Unless you’re in the fire next to someone else, they really don’t understand. So as much as I’m on fire in the public eye, going around in circles, he faces the same similar battles, trying to stay on top of the depth chart doing what he does. So we can relate to so many things.

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Being able to relate is part of what prompted LaJoie to involve Flores on the podcasting side. His addition to the Stacking Pennies lineup provided perspective on the weekly pressures from the pit crew member’s perspective, but his longtime relationship with LaJoie kept the conversation light.

“I think that’s why people tune in because they feel like they’re just somebody else at the table listening to some BS buddies on the run, whether we work in it or love it. just be true fans of the sport,” LaJoie said. “You know, I didn’t wake up one day saying, ‘Man, you know what, I really want to be a podcaster’ or like, ‘I need my own podcast’. Like that just happened. .

Since then, LaJoie is in his fourth year as a podcast host, counting his time with MRN Radio’s “Sunday Money” show from 2019-20 to his transition to NASCAR’s podcast platform a year ago. year. “I just kept doing it, but now I realize the impact it can have on my career outside of just cultivating fans and making my story,” he says. “You know, it’s one thing to tell your story on social media, but having long conversations about the real grind week after week of what’s going on in sport, I think is a good way to give giving fans a glimpse of the struggles It’s not all the red carpet and rock star life that people pretend to be.

Having Flores in the rotation of Stacking Pennies co-hosts gave LaJoie another friendly voice to lean on during recording sessions, but added an educational element about his evolving pit crew role. That focus has increased this year as teams have adapted to the Next Gen car and its new one-legged setup, a pit stop process that Flores has highlighted this season.

“I’ve always been keen to talk about racing, but especially the more I’ve been on the side of the pit crew and in the trenches about it, I understand how high that level of competition is, and that just starting to get more and more competitive,” Flores says. “…I think we’ve both talked about it, and that’s something Joey (Logano) says, who’s also one of our really good friends… try to leave the sport in a better place than you found it. Really, at the end of the day, we’re good friends because we’re students of the sport and we both want to be successful in racing but also see the race succeed.

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Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

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