Editor’s Note: Today’s Spire Motorsports preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2023 Cup Series season, 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), Ty Dillon-Kevin Bellicourt (No. 77)
Team outlook: Seeking its first win since 2019 (Justin Haley), Spire Motorsports has one big advantage this upcoming season that it has never had in its short history at the Cup Series level — consistency. LaJoie returns for another season, freshly mirrored by Ty Dillon in the No. 77, a ride previously rotated through by a mix of drivers yearly. Having two full-time drivers with 402 premier series starts between them should have the team poised for a stronger performance this time around.
Each of the driver’s finishes in last season’s final points ranking is not necessarily indicative of where he was able to run most weeks. One of the downfalls was finishing races, 17 combined DNFs in 2022, with eight for LaJoie and nine for Dillon while driving for Legacy Motor Club (formerly Petty GMS).
If they can settle into their Next Gen Camaros a bit more this season, one or two trips to Victory Lane would not be out of the question. LaJoie nearly grabbed his first win a year ago by putting on a marvelous show in the Atlanta Motor Speedway summer race, and both drivers are entering this season with a lot to prove.
COREY LAJOIE, NO. 7 CHEVROLET
Experience: Six full-time seasons in NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: 31st in final standings; 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 1,000-1
Outlook: LaJoie was one lap away from a monumental victory last season at Atlanta, trapped in a dogfight with eventual race winner Chase Elliott after masterful strategy had his No. 7 running 19 laps out front. But his day ended with a mangled race car and another missed opportunity; one big moment that should have LaJoie and company more focused than ever heading into the 2023 season. In 200 races at the top level, LaJoie has just one top-five finish and five top 10s — statistics he has the talent to best in a single campaign if the cards fall right. On top of his individual talent, LaJoie and crew chief Ryan Sparks have made strides each year together, posting the best career average finish for LaJoie (24.3) a season ago. If they can avoid the DNFs, LaJoie is a dark-horse contender to win at a superspeedway and perhaps earn his first Cup Series Playoffs appearance.
TY DILLON, NO. 77 CHEVROLET
Experience: Five full-time seasons in NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: 29th in final standings; 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 750-1
Outlook: After spending his last two full-time seasons at the Cup Series level with different teams (Germain Racing and Legacy M.C.), Dillon will be out to prove he can be a key building block for organizations pursuing wins and championships. The younger Dillon brother has never won at the premier series level, but he has been mostly a mainstay since his first full season in 2017. His experience should be a positive addition to a team moving in the right direction. Dillon provides stability to the No. 77 ride and can form a connection with experienced crew chief Kevin Bellicourt. Dillon’s 22.6 average finish in 202 starts will be a good measuring stick for him this season. If he can reach the sub-20 mark, Dillon could contend for top-five finishes or even victories in a couple of races throughout the season.
NASCAR.com 2023 team previews schedule
Jan. 23: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Jan. 24: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 25: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 27: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 30: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 31: RFK Racing
Feb. 1: Legacy Motor Club
Feb. 2: Richard Childress Racing
Feb. 7: 23XI Racing
Feb. 8: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 9: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 10: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 13: Trackhouse Racing
Feb. 14: Team Penske