Corey LaJoie expresses a light-hearted regret about the years-ago beginnings of his friendship with Ryan Flores. “I wish we would have had a lot more foresight to fire up a YouTube channel,” LaJoie says, thinking about all the viral moments left uncaptured in those rambunctious early years. “… We were doing some wild stuff.”
What started as a bond between youngsters and forged by a common love of racing has grown along parallel paths. From those days of goofing off with go-karts, big wheels and late nights working on race cars, both LaJoie and Flores traced their journeys to established roles at NASCAR’s highest level, but also as hosts for a loyal audience of podcast listeners.
That chemistry — years in the making — plays out each week on the Stacking Pennies podcast. LaJoie currently drives the No. 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’ve grown through similar challenges on their path to stock-car racing’s big leagues.
“I think that’s what’s cool now is we both worked toward a goal,” Flores says. “I wanted to be a tire changer, he wanted to be a driver and we both probably got beat around pretty good trying to get there, but not to be at this level … obviously he’s not where he wants to be at yet in the Cup Series but it’s been cool to grow together and to be able to ride to the race track together now and do all that stuff competing in the same race, it’s a big deal.”
LaJoie’s path has been well-documented, and his knack for grinding throughout his career against taller odds is reflected in the podcast’s name — a creative re-use of his personal mantra. The 30-year-old journeyman has done a little bit of everything from racing in the Late Model ranks, winning as a driver and a crew chief at the ARCA Menards Series level, and building racing seats at the shop founded by his father, two-time Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie.
Flores’ journey took similar turns — BMX racing by age 3, quarter-midgets by 5 and a stock-car jump at 14. He moved from his native New Jersey five years later, hoping to catch on with 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 fabricator.
Mutual friends and relationships led their paths to cross in North Carolina. Before long, Flores’ regular routine became finishing work at Roush Fenway, then heading to LaJoie’s shop in the evening to help out with his Late Model program and participate in all those shenanigans that YouTube missed.
“We would be in the shop so late that Randy would call and tell us ‘hey, man, you guys got to shut it down. I’m not paying the power bill anymore,’ ” Flores recalls. “You know, working on race cars … some 20-year-olds would be playing video games and we’d just be building race cars.”
MORE: Corey LaJoie driver page
Other jobs followed for Flores — welder, tire specialist, mechanic — before he found his calling with over-the-wall duty. He was a reserve crew member for Tony Stewart’s final championship run in 2011, then joined Team Penske’s operations in 2014.
“It takes so much commitment and drive and sacrifice to get to the level that he’s at being a tire changer, and people don’t really understand the mental side of everything,” LaJoie says. “There’s the talent piece of being a quote-unquote professional, then there’s the mental stuff. Unless you’re in the fire next to somebody else, they really don’t understand. So as much as I’m in the fire in the public eye, driving around in circles, he’s up against the same similar battles, trying to stay on top of the depth chart doing what he’s doing. So we can relate on so many things.”
Being able to relate is part of what prompted LaJoie to get Flores involved on the podcasting side. His addition to the Stacking Pennies lineup has provided perspective about the week-to-week pressures from the pit-crew member’s point of view, but his long-running rapport with LaJoie has kept the conversation light.
“I think that’s why people tune in because they do feel like they’re just somebody else at the table listening to a couple of buddies BS about racing, whether we either work in it or just enjoy being genuine fans of the sport,” LaJoie says. “You know, I didn’t wake up one day being like, ‘Man, you know what, I really want to be a podcaster,’ or like, ‘I need my own podcast.’ Like it kind of 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 2019-2020 to his transition to NASCAR’s podcast platform a year ago. “I just kept doing it, but now I realize the impact that it can have for my career off the track of just cultivating fans and making my story,” he says. “You know, it’s one thing to tell your story on social media, but to have longform conversations about the actual grind week to week of what happens in the sport, I think it’s a good way to give fans a peek into the struggles. It’s not all the red carpet and rock-star life that people make it out to be.”
Having Flores in the Stacking Pennies co-host rotation gave LaJoie another friendly voice to lean on in recording sessions, but added an educational element about his evolving pit-crew role. That focus has grown this year as teams have adapted to the Next Gen car and its new single-lug setup, a pit-stop process that Flores has shed light on this season.
“I’ve always had a heart for talking about racing, but especially the more I’ve been on the pit-crew side and been in the trenches in that, I understand how high that level of competition is, and it’s just getting to be more and more competitive,” says Flores. “… I think we’ve both talked about this, and it’s something Joey (Logano) says, who is one of our really good friends, too … 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 succeed in racing but also want to see racing succeed.”