Today we’re looking at Spire Motorsports, as we continue NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, starting with new chartered teams then ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
Engine: Hendrick Motorsports
Driver-crew chief pairings: Corey LaJoie-Ryan Sparks (No. 7); Multiple drivers (Jamie McMurray among them)-Kevin Bellicourt (No. 77)
What’s new: Well, plenty. LaJoie makes the shift over to Chevrolet and Spire after a pair of full-time seasons with the Ford-backed Go Fas Racing, and the team itself is expanding to a two-car enterprise. Both crew chiefs are new to the outlet, with Sparks moving over from Go Fas along with LaJoie. Former Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray also returns to the fold for the Great American Race after running it for Spire in 2019 and taking last year off. The team also added former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief and current NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Steve Letarte in a consulting role.
Team outlook: It’s tough to say, to be honest. This is an organization that — kind of miraculously — already has a Cup Series win to its credit, but hasn’t nearly scratched the surface of what it’s trying to accomplish in the sport. Still in its relative infancy after debuting at the ’19 Daytona 500 with McMurray, the subsidiary of Spire Sports + Entertainment management agency is a team looking to plant its roots and grow for the future. That said, it’s clear Spire has big aspirations and appears to be methodically putting the correct pieces in place to become a powerhouse down the line, but a win this year is certainly not an impossibility. The hiring of Letarte was also an incredibly interesting and perhaps an underrated personnel move that could pay dividends as soon as this year.
Racing Insights’ stats break: Spire moves from one team to two teams in 2021, adding LaJoie — who comes to Daytona with top-10 finishes in two of the last three races there. The team found success in 2019 by winning at Daytona in the Coke Zero 400 with Justin Haley and hopes to continue to improve thanks to its additions as well as consulting work from veteran crew chief Steve Letarte.
Corey LaJoie, No. 7 Chevrolet
Experience: Third full season in NASCAR Cup Series
2020 stats: 30th in final standings; 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
2020 final Fantasy Live ranking: 30th
2021 championship odds: 1,000-1
Outlook: Running for lesser-funded organizations LaJoie’s stats historically have not been eye-popping, but last winter he emerged as a dark horse candidate to slide into the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet vacated by Jimmie Johnson and eventually filled internally by Alex Bowman. Though the dominoes fell a different way, it still speaks volumes about LaJoie’s reputation within the garage and amongst his peers on the track that he was an option — longshot or not — to replace a seven-time champion. After securing just one top 10 and three total in his two years at Go Fas, there’s nowhere to go but up for the 29-year-old. Though he likely again won’t wow you with his finishing position most weekends, expect the trajectory of LaJoie and Spire as a whole to continue to rise, maybe even faster than some are projecting.
Various drivers, No. 77 Chevrolet
Outlook: As of this writing Spire has only announced McMurray’s Daytona 500 start in terms of drivers to pilot this ride, though it is expected that Haley will return for several races on top of his full Xfinity Series slate for Kaulig Racing. There likely will be other drivers to be announced at a later date. Bellicourt is an interesting pull to put atop the pit box, having most recently worked with upstart Camping World Truck Series driver Derek Kraus en route to an 11th-place finish last season. One thing that does stand out on his resume, however: he guided a then-17-year-old William Byron to a four-win, championship campaign in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2015.
NASCAR.com 2021 team previews schedule
Jan. 18: 23XI Racing
Jan. 19: Trackhouse Racing Team
Jan. 20: Live Fast Motorsports
Jan. 21: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 22: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: Richard Petty Motorsports
Jan. 27: Roush Fenway Racing
Jan. 28: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 29: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 30: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Feb. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing
Feb. 2: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 3: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 4: Team Penske
Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports