2024 season preview: Spire Motorsports


Corey LaJoie gives a thumbs up at Atlanta
Chris Graythen
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Editor’s Note: Today’s Spire Motorsports preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2024 Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.

Spire Motorsports

Manufacturer: Chevrolet
Engine: Hendrick Motorsports
Driver-crew chief pairings: Corey LaJoie-Ryan Sparks (No. 7), Zane Smith-Stephen Doran (No. 71), Carson Hocevar-Luke Lambert (No. 77)

Team outlook: Spire Motorsports leaped in performance last season as Corey LaJoie took his No. 7 Chevrolet from a 24.3 average finish in 2022 to 20.8 in 2023. With positive momentum entering 2024, Spire expands to a three-car operation after forming an alliance with Trackhouse Racing. Spire welcomes two full-time newcomers in the Cup Series as Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith are set for their respective rookie campaigns.

Stephen Doran makes his debut as a crew chief as he’ll sit atop the No. 71 team’s pit box for Smith. Before linking with Spire, Doran worked at Stewart-Haas Racing for 11 years and the No. 4 team, where he won a championship with driver Kevin Harvick in 2014. Luke Lambert moves from Legacy Motor Club to Spire, where he will crew chief Hocevar. Lambert has been atop the box for multiple teams and drivers in the Cup Series since 2011, most recently for the No. 42 car at Legacy where Hocevar drove eight races in 2023.

With Smith set to transition to Trackhouse in 2025, there will be added expectation to perform well this upcoming season and improve on the gains found in 2023.

COREY LAJOIE, NO. 7 CHEVROLET

Experience: Five full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series
2023 stats: 25th in final standings; 0 wins, 2 top fives, 3 top 10s
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 600-1

Outlook: Finding stability in the Cup Series after pairing with Spire in 2021 has bore improvement in each season for LaJoie. 2023 was the most consistent year for the 32-year-old as he was consistently in contention for top-20 results and saw the biggest gain in average finish between full-time seasons, going from 24.3 in ’22 to 20.8 last year. The combination of a technical alliance with Trackhouse and LaJoie now serving as the veteran leader for the organization and rookies Hocevar and Smith could culminate in a dark-horse run to one of the 16 playoff spots, whether that comes via victory or on points alone.

RELATED: LaJoie signs multiyear extension with Spire Motorsports

ZANE SMITH, NO. 71 CHEVROLET

Experience: 9 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series.
2023 stats: Seventh in final Truck Series standings; 2 wins, 10 top fives, 10 top 10s (Truck); 1 top 10 (Xfinity); 1 top 10 (Cup)
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 400-1

Outlook: The 2022 Truck Series champion makes his awaited full-time debut in the Cup Series this year. Smith turned heads in 2022, filling in for Chris Buescher and RFK in the No. 17 at World Wide Technology Raceway with a clean day around the 1-mile oval and a 17th-place finish. Smith made eight Cup starts in 2023, highlighted by a 10th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600. Under contract with Trackhouse Racing ahead of the 2025 campaign, the 24-year-old will have more pressure and expectations to perform than your average rookie.

RELATED: Opening championship odds | 2024 schedule

CARSON HOCEVAR, NO. 77 CHEVROLET

Experience: 9 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series.
2023 stats: Fourth in final Truck Series standings; 4 wins, 11 top fives, 13 top 10s (Truck); 2 top 10s (Xfinity)
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 400-1

Outlook: Even competing with the likes of Josh Berry and Zane Smith for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2024, Carson Hocevar will likely have the most to prove among his Cup Series peers. An outstanding 2023 campaign with Niece Motorsports, highlighted by Hocevar’s first national series victories and a Championship 4 berth, sparked moments that ruffled the feathers of his fellow competitors, culminating in a dustup with Corey Heim in the final laps of the Phoenix title race that rattled the Truck Series championship picture. However, the 20-year-old’s talent shined at the Cup level in his select starts in 2023, scoring an eye-popping 11th-place finish in the Bristol Night Race to pair with four other top-20 runs. With upgraded assets and a pair of talented teammates, Hocevar should continue to impress when the Cup Series kicks off its season at Daytona.

MORE: Hocevar inks multiyear deal with Spire

BOLD PREDICTION: Make it two bold predictions: Corey LaJoie reaching the playoffs and Zane Smith taking home Rookie of the Year honors. LaJoie’s overall improvement in terms of average finish should continue in 2024, and with Daytona and Atlanta kicking off the season on a back-to-back, it offers LaJoie a golden opportunity to stun the field early and lock in one of the first spots in the Cup Series Playoffs. As for Smith, he has the capabilities to exceed already high expectations for 2024. After an underwhelming year for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2023, it’s difficult to tap Josh Berry for the award as he transitions from Xfinity to Cup full-time, and Smith should outperform his Spire counterpart in Hocevar for the majority of race weekends.

NASCAR.com 2024 team previews schedule

Jan. 15: Legacy Motor Club
Jan. 16: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 17: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 18: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 22: Rick Ware Racing
Jan. 23: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 24: Stewart-Haas Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 29: Trackhouse Racing
Jan. 30: RFK Racing
Feb. 6: 23XI Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 8: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 9: Team Penske

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