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October 18, 2022

Spire taps LaJoie, Ty Dillon for Cup Series effort in 2023

CONCORD, N.C. — Spire Motorsports announced its 2023 driver lineup Tuesday morning, adding newcomer Ty Dillon to pair with the returning Corey LaJoie in the NASCAR Cup Series next season.

LaJoie, 31, will be back for a third consecutive season in the organization’s No. 7 Chevrolet starting next year. He’ll have a full-time teammate in the 30-year-old Dillon, who will shift over from Petty GMS Motorsports to Spire’s No. 77 Chevy at season’s end.

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The organization firmed up its plans from the team’s Concord, North Carolina, race shop, which it has called home since it expanded to a two-car operation in 2021. Spire also announced its crew chief lineup, keeping Ryan Sparks paired with LaJoie on the No. 7 team, and teaming Kevin Bellicourt with Dillon for the No. 77. Sparks will also fill the role of director of competition.

“I don’t think people have really seen what our potential is as a race team,” LaJoie said, “and I’m excited for the fans and the guys in this building who are the ones working on it to realize that potential next year.”

LaJoie joined the Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr-owned organization in 2021 after stints with BK Racing, TriStar and Go Fas Racing. This season produced the first top-five finish of his Cup Series career and his closest brush with victory — both coming at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway. LaJoie wound up fifth in March at the Georgia track, and he led a career-best 19 laps before a late-race tangle with Chase Elliott knocked him from contention.

Dillon will be suiting up for his sixth full-time Cup Series campaign. After a part-time schedule in all three NASCAR national series in 2021, Dillon returned to Cup in the Petty GMS No. 42 ride this year. The two sides announced July 15 that they would part ways at season’s end, and Petty GMS named Noah Gragson as his successor in the No. 42 on Aug. 10.

Dillon said he had multiple offers in other national series, but said he felt his calling remained at the Cup Series level. His said initial talks with Spire gave him a sense of belonging.

“I feel the best is yet to come with this team,” Dillon said, “and hopefully I can just be another positive cog to the great wheel that’s growing here. You can see in all facets of Spire Motorsports, they’re growing at the right pace, doing the things the right way. And I’m really happy to be here and looking forward to being a part of this for a long time. The best is yet to come for all these opportunities for all of us.”

After hosting a rotating cast of drivers this season, the No. 77 team will shift to a full campaign solely for Dillon. Josh Bilicki has made 16 starts in the No. 77 Camaro this year, with Landon Cassill netting the team’s best finish — fourth in August at Daytona — in one of his 14 appearances this season.

Next season, the No. 77 group will have a single-driver focus and another full-time presence in the Cup Series driver standings.

“It’s just about having that consistency to be able to build your notebook and build what you’re working on,” said Bellicourt, who will return for his third season with the No. 77 team. “You go to a race track in the spring with one driver, and go to the race track in the fall with another driver, your notebook doesn’t always translate. So I think all those things are important. I think it’s huge. It’s big for me to be able to have that consistency, and then it’s just a matter of the relationship. Me and Ty are going to develop a friendship. We’ve gotten to talk a few times and we’ve got to know each other. We text now, but we’re going to be able to develop a friendship and a trust in one another and that’s very important.”

The future Spire teammates are each on pace to reach their 200th Cup Series start this season. Dillon is set to mark the milestone in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Homestead-Miami Speedway. LaJoie is on schedule to reach the 200-start plateau in the Nov. 6 season finale at Phoenix Raceway.

It’s another parallel for the two next-generation drivers who grew up at the track with their racing families, who stayed involved in Motor Racing Outreach and who both made their first Cup Series start eight years ago.

“Even now, Corey and I have a relationship so much deeper than just what’s on track,” Dillon said. “We’ve shared very similar faith, and we were able to communicate about things deeper than racing. And that means a lot to me, just having that family, friendship atmosphere around your career, and I’m excited for that. And I think that’s the piece that I’ve really been looking for, for my career to just grow all the way around.”

Spire formed in 2018 and made a near-immediate splash the following year with Justin Haley’s stunning breakthrough Cup Series victory at Daytona International Speedway. The organization’s headway since then has been more measured, but has grown to include a part-time schedule this year in the Camping World Truck Series.

Spire has competed in 10 of the 21 Truck Series races this year, with six drivers sharing the on-track duties in the No. 7 Chevy. Those starts produced a first victory in a dominant day for Cup Series driver William Byron in April at Martinsville Speedway.

Dickerson said the Truck Series effort would likely return in 2023 with a familiar look.

“Right now the focus is on the Cup program, getting that squared away sponsor-wise and so forth,” Dickerson said. “I mean, obviously, Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) and (team manager Mike) Greci do a really, really good job up there with those guys. I guess we’re always kind of looking, but I would say it’s probably going to be part-time, as of now will be part-time and look pretty similar to what it was this year.”