BUSCH: LaJoie Hopes to Repeat at Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 16, 1998) - Making a daring last-lap pass to win a race is a dream for any race driver who has ever put on the gloves, strapped on a helmet, and buckled his belts. Randy LaJoie hopes he will be celebrating...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 16, 1998) - Making a daring last-lap pass to win a race is a dream for any race driver who has ever put on the gloves, strapped on a helmet, and buckled his belts. Randy LaJoie hopes he will be celebrating another win at Darlington this weekend.

Pulling off the feat at NASCAR's original and toughest superspeedway -- Darlington Raceway -- however, makes it much more than just a dream. And for two-time NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie, it's a fantasy come true. LaJoie stunned not only the racing world with his final lap pass of Jeff Burton in last year's Diamond Hill Plywood 200, but also himself.

"You can only wish you can be in the position at least once in your career," said LaJoie, who'll try Saturday, March 21 to join Geoff Bodine and Robert Pressley as the only back-to-back winners of the Diamond Hill Plywood 200.

"I remember when I was back home up North years ago, I would watch guys like (Dale) Earnhardt, (Harry) Gant and David Pearson make passes in the third and fourth turns when you thought there was no way in the world they could pull it off.

"Last year was my time, and man was it something else! I wasn't going to let the opportunity slip past me. It was the ultimate. Anytime you can go to Darlington and win on the last lap in the last corner when you're behind going into that corner, you've achieved a major accomplishment, not only for that particular race, but for a career."

Over the final laps, LaJoie and Burton were like two peas in a pod. Every time LaJoie looked in his rearview mirror, it was just a blur of blue and yellow, the colors of Burton's Ford. He was close, and a few times some of those colors rubbed off when Burton would give the Chevy driver a nudge.

On the white-flag lap, LaJoie led through Turns 1 and 2, but as the drivers came off of the second turn, Burton built momentum and shot to LaJoie's inside. Side-by-side they went until Burton made the pass.

While momentum helped him off of Turn 3, it hurt Burton in Turn 3. In making his pass, he drove too hard into the corner and slipped high. LaJoie saw a ray of daylight and took advantage. He dove to the bottom of the track and swept past Burton. The rest is history. "I learned a lot about using momentum here many years ago from Jack Ingram (who won the 1985 race)," LaJoie said. "I learned where and how to pass cars. Momentum can make or break you at Darlington. I used a momentum pass to make that race. And, to beat a guy like Jeff Burton made it extra special."

LaJoie will again be a favorite for the 18th Diamond Hill Plywood 200, which gets a 1 p.m. EST start. Bud Pole Qualifying for the event is Friday, March 20, with the full 42-car field being determined in one session.

Fans have the opportunity to purchase a special package offer to the race and Bud Pole Day. As a part of the track's "8 Tickets to Paradise," a family of four can view the race from the Pearson Tower, which stands like a giant outside of Turn 4, as well as receive four "Legends of Darlington" collectible Bud Pole Day tickets. The collectibles feature Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts and are good for gate admission to Bud Pole Day. It's 8 tickets for $98!

For ticket information, call the Raceway at (803) 395-8499. Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Burton , Robert Pressley , David Pearson