The path to Cup rides take varying degrees of opportunity for Nemechek and LaJoie

One driver is going to lower levels of NASCAR to stand out. Another is staying in NASCARS top level to remain in front of prospective owners. Both are hoping for a same end goal – Cup Series champion one day.

So, which wins out?

John Hunter Nemechek finished 27th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings as a rookie in 2020. He had an opportunity to come back to Front Row Motorsports in 2021.

Instead, he chose to go backwards in hopes of taking a larger leap forward later. Nemechek, 23, will go down to the Camping World Truck Series to race for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the No. 4 Toyota next season.

Nemechek, is hoping this path propels him like it did for William Byron, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones. All three were vastly competitive with KBM and moved up the ladder rather quickly.

Byron, didn’t win a championship in his lone rookie campaign in Trucks, but he did win the most races and earned a contract with Hendrick Motorsports after. That put him with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series then with HMS in Cup after.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – JULY 25: Chase Purdy, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, races Raphael Lessard, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Toyota, during the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series e.p.t 200 at Kansas Speedway on July 25, 2020 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bell and Jones both went to JGR in NXS then up to Cup rides.

Nemechek started in Trucks with his family team. He thrived too. He also got some select starts in NXS with Ganassi. But, that top of the line ride wasn’t coming so despite a Cup offer and opportunity, he felt this path is best served.

Corey LaJoie is taking a differing perspective. He’s moving from Go Fas Racing to Spire. He had three top 10 finishes in two seasons with Go Fas. He was 30th in the final standings in 2020. They were an underfunded team racing with old cars.

He leaves to go to Spire.

Spire is on the rise, but not there yet. LaJoie admitted that he had better offers to go back to NXS or Trucks with competitive rides but chose to stay in Cup with a team still working on making it with the big boys.

Which pans out?

That’s the beauty of this. Both can. Both drivers are betting on themselves and for some luck to pan out as well.

If JHN struggles with KBM, then that top ride won’t likely ever materialize. KBM offers you a shot to win instantly. If you can’t win there, where can you win at?

LaJoie is taking a longer shot ride again in hopes he can stand out in the long run and the team gets competitive eventually.

Both are risks. Both can work too. Two different paths with a similar goal in mind. I mean, to each their own right? AJ Allmendinger was a Cup driver for years but was growing more and more frustrated driving for teams with really not many shots of winning each week. So, he retired. But, now he’s a full time driver again. The passion never left. He’s now with a team in NXS that’s capable of winning every time he straps into his Camaro, so he’s happy.

It just goes to show that there’s different paths for every one and that some paths never materialize to a Cup dream but being in a car winning on a lower level can sometimes be better for your mental health than being in the top series with a car not capable of amounting much better than 15th-20th.


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