Corey LaJoie led when it counted Sunday, winning the Ansell ActivArmr 150 at Chicagoland Speedway in just his second career ARCA start. LaJoie passed leaders Justin Boston and Josh Williams just before taking the white flag and sailed to his biggest career win.
"It just all worked out," said the Richard Petty Motorsports development driver.
LaJoie, driving the No. 17 Sims Metal Management-Roulo Brothers Ford, led 36 of the first 52 laps. His team decided to pit on lap 80 for fuel and two tires, a strategy that worked in his favor when pole sitter Ryan Blaney ran out of fuel with seven laps to go and Boston appeared to do the same with two circuits left.
"With about 20 to go, Harold Holly (crew chief) said we were going to come in for fuel and tires and see if we can out smart them a little bit," LaJoie said. "I came in to get tires. After that it was just all-out racing.
"I saw the 25 (Boston) and he was way up there and my spotter said 'leader is out of gas' and I said 'sweet, we're coming to the white flag.'"
Cunningham Motorsports driver Blaney had built nearly a full lap lead on the rest of the field after taking the lead from LaJoie on lap 53. But, his car ran out of fuel with seven laps to go and Venturini Motorsports driver Justin Boston, in the No. 25 ZLOOP Computer & Electronics Recycling Toyota, inherited the lead. Then, on lap 98, Boston ran out of gas. He finished seventh, the first car one lap down.
Williams finished a career-best second in the No. 02 Allegiant Travel Ford, in his second race driving for Gallagher Motorsports. He was on the same pit strategy as Blaney and Boston, but was able to make it to the end.
"In practice, everybody does there fuel millage thing," Williams said. "We had really good fuel mileage. At the end I was just rolling out of it way early, but I was saving all I could."
With the runner-up finish, Williams moved up to fifth place in the ARCA Racing Series driver point standings.
Blaney, who led the most laps for the second time this season, had a huge lead on the rest of the field. He said he thought he could make it on fuel.
"It was just a miscalculation," he said. "It sucks because that's twice we've had really fast race cars but didn't win because of something silly.
"Our thought was we could make it," he said. "I was trying to save fuel. We just missed it."
There were three cautions in the race, the last coming at lap 24 for fluid on the track. Most of the leaders pitted at that time. Will Kimmel, in the 69 Messina Wildlife Ford for Kimmel Racing, led the next 15 laps until LaJoie grabbed the lead until lap 42 when Blaney zoomed to the front.
Blaney led 41 laps in all, three more than LaJoie. Frank Kimmel, who led one lap in his No. 44 Ansell Menards Toyota, finished ninth, his 21st consecutive top-10 finish in the ARCA Racing Series.
Will Kimmel finished fourth. Phoenix, Arizona native Chad Boat placed fifth in his Southern Car Parts Toyota, with Mason Mingus in the No. 32 Team Construction-811 Call Before You Dig Toyota sixth, Boston seventh, Venturini Motorsports drivers Caleb Armstrong and A.J. Henriksen eighth and 10th, respectively.
The 100-lap, 150-mile race took just under 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete.
LaJoie, the son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie, said he hopes to race in a couple more ARCA Racing Series events this season.
"It definitely makes all of the late nights and midnights and early mornings worth it," he said.
He called winning the Ansell ActivArmr 150 his biggest victory to date.
"I think every race win is your next-biggest career win," he said, thanking Richard Petty Motorsports and Roulo Brothers Racing for the combined effort. "Hopefully it keeps going up the ladder. It is hard to stay fresh when you're not in the race car. I don't mind not racing every now and then, but if I get the opportunity to race every week, I think I would be that much better."