BUSCH: Lajoie To Leave BASE Motorsports

LaJoie to leave BACE Motorsports at end of season By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 4, 1998) Two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie and BACE Motorsports owner Bill...

LaJoie to leave BACE Motorsports at end of season By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 4, 1998) Two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion Randy LaJoie and BACE Motorsports owner Bill Baumgardner announced Friday that they are ending their partnership following the conclusion of the 1998 season.

After a pair of NASCAR Busch Series titles in 1996 and 1997 (LaJoie won five races in each of those seasons), the No 74 FINA Chevrolet team, by its standards, has struggled this season. LaJoie, has managed just one win in 1998 (at Myrtle Beach), and is a distant fourth in the series standings.

Inner-team dissension has become apparent over the past few weeks, and LaJoie made a decision that it was time for him to move on.

"When you run good, nobody points fingers. But when you run bad, everybody starts pointing fingers," LaJoie said. "Most of the time they should look in the mirror and point the fingers at the mirror. But that doesn't necessarily happen. I'm the guy that gets stabbed in the back and pointed at, but that's OK, I've gotten it all year. Nothing's going to change."

Team Manager Steve Bird agreed that it was time for the two parties to go their own separate ways.

"We've had a tough year this year, but it's still been a good year," Bird said. "I guess the plain way to put it is that it's time for a change for everybody. Randy's got a lot of comments about the team and he's been very vulgar about it. We don't believe he should be that way. I guess we need to go with somebody else.

"Things probably could have stayed good and successful, the way they were before. But when you complain about everything, like how the good motor was in the truck or things like that, you get the whole team mad at you. You just get to the point where nothing is right, and it's just time for a change."

Baumgardner's teams have won three consecutive NASCAR Busch Series championships. But, as someone once said, all good things must come to an end. LaJoie still had one year left on his multi-year contract with BACE Motorsports.

"Randy and I sat down together and discussed the events of the year and concluded that we had arrived at different opinions about 1998 and had different directions for next year," Baumgardner said. "Neither one of us are necessarily right or wrong, but have opinions that are based on different perspectives ... that of driver and car owner.

"Randy told me he had some other opportunities he wanted to explore for next year and would like to be released from the last year remaining on his current contract."

LaJoie said there were a few NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams that showed interest in him and offered him a ride for next season, but he turned them down, saying he would stay in the NASCAR Busch Series. LaJoie had some moderate success while subbing for the injured Ricky Craven in the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series earlier this season.

He said he would make an announcement as to what his future plans will be in the next couple of weeks.

LaJoie's current teammate, Tim Fedewa, has hinted that he too may be headed elsewhere next season, but hasn't announced any plans to do so. Fedewa said the status of his primary sponsor, Kleenex, is still up in the air for next season.

In any case, Fedewa said losing LaJoie as a teammate is a sad occasion for him.

"You hate to see Randy leave and part ways as a teammate because Randy helped me out a lot and we got to be pretty good friends, too," Fedewa said. "We still have that, but him and Bill (Baumgardner) had some differing opinions on things and felt that mutually it would be better if they parted ways. "They had a few good years together, and you hate to see that break up. But things change, personalities and what not. Personal goals change, and I think both of theirs has a little bit. Randy is a great race car driver and Bill obviously knows how to run a race team, so I think they'll both have a great future."

Bird said that, no matter who the driver would be, BACE will run three teams next season under its banner. The third team was announced a few weeks back with open-wheel veteran Andy Michner as the driver and Bayer/Alka-Seltzer as the sponsor.

"BACE Motorsports is going to run three teams next year," Bird said. "As far as who's driving them and who the sponsor is, we don't know that yet. Of course we're working on a lot of good things, but you never know until it's set. We've been talking to some people for a while now. We've anticipated this (LaJoie's departure) for a while now. We're going to try to make the best of the rest of the year, and right now, fourth ain't bad."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Drivers Ricky Craven