BUSCH: Myrtle Beach Race Story

LaJoie takes thriller for first '98 win MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (July 11, 1998) Finally. Randy LaJoie, who captured the last two NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division championships, had gone far too long without a win before making it to ...

LaJoie takes thriller for first '98 win

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (July 11, 1998) Finally. Randy LaJoie, who captured the last two NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division championships, had gone far too long without a win before making it to Victory Lane in Saturday night's Myrtle Beach 250. He came to Myrtle Beach Speedway riding a 26-race winless streak, and the chinks in his armor had begun to show.

The pressure was there, and LaJoie felt it.

If LaJoie's the sort to believe in numbers, though, he had a few "coincidences" going in his favor. The Myrtle Beach race was run on his parents' 40th wedding anniversary. That was nice enough for Don and Cathy, but it gets fairly spooky from there.

One of his dad's race car numbers in the good ol' days was 711, also the date of this year's edition of the Myrtle Beach 250, run on the 11th day of the seventh month. His first son, Cory, weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces at birth, while second son, Casey, was born Nov. 7 -- the seventh day of the 11th month.

Then again, the fact LaJoie's BACE Motorsports Chevrolet was hooked up better than it had been all season probably had a little to do with the champ's 11th career series triumph as well.

"I needed a victory," LaJoie said with a relieved smile. "Damn, I needed a race win, whether it was in Go-Karts or anything. A win is a win. I know it's been a long time. I've got all my flags on the wall from last year, and I sit there in my office and think, 'Man, I need a damn new flag.'

"I needed this win, just like Ricky Craven needed a pole up at Loudon (in his return to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series). We were on a streak there for two years where every seventh or eighth race, we'd win. Boy, it should would feel good to get back into that swing again. "We've had a rough year but we're not dead yet. We still have a lot of races left and we started right here. It was like old times." LaJoie led twice for a total of 138 laps, but had to get around David Green to pace the final six circuits of the 0.538-mile bullring. Debris from Jeff Purvis' scrape with the Turn 4 wall brought out the yellow flag for the final time, and set up an eight-lap dash to the checkered flag. LaJoie is no stranger to battling either Green or his current No. 36 Team 34 Racing outfit. Green finished second to LaJoie in the 1996 Busch Series title chase, while Todd Bodine was runner-up in the No. 36 entry last year. In three races with Team 34 Racing as the replacement for rookie Matt Hutter, Green has posted three top-five finishes. "At the end of the second run, I saw David in third," said LaJoie, who was leading at the time with BACE Motorsports teammate Tim Fedewa in second. "I asked how the guys how fast he was, and they said he was as fast as we were. I said, 'Oh, boy, that's not good,' especially as smooth as David is. "David, I raced him hard in '96 for the championship. Last year, I raced that 36 car (at the time, Bodine) for the championship. Put David and that 36 car together and they're gonna run very well. They have. This is great for our race team to lead the most laps and win the race. That's what you have to do nowadays. To win a race, you have to be pretty damn near perfect." The decisive pass came between Turns 1 and 2, three laps after the final restart. LaJoie figured the yellow flag saved him, while Green, of course, could've done without it. "He slipped up the race track a little bit, and that gave me a shot to get underneath him," LaJoie said. "I knew if I could keep it straight up off the corner, he'd have a tough time getting back by me. "Earlier, I'd gotten in the back of him and turned him sideways. He waved to me down the frontstretch, and that was just kind of a welcome back to the Busch Series. I hadn't seen him in a while. David's a damn good racer. "I had a good time in '96 racing him, and it looks we're gonna have a good time racing him for the rest of this year." Mike McLaughlin finished third, followed by South Carolina native Lyndon Amick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to round out the top-five. Fedewa, Joe Bessey, Matt Kenseth, Mark Green and last year's Myrtle Beach winner Elliott Sadler made up the rest of the top-10. McLaughlin's effort allowed him to take a slim three-point lead over Kenseth in the series standings, 2,499 to 2,496. Earnhardt also closed in on first place, chopping 10 points off his deficit to come out of Myrtle Beach just 12 points off the pace. The defending champ now stands in fourth, 290 points out.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Todd Bodine , Mike McLaughlin , Lyndon Amick , Ricky Craven , Mark Green , Jeff Purvis , Elliott Sadler