For more than 20 years, Randy LaJoie has been in the custom seat business. It all started with a fiberglass seat his dad, Connecticut Modified great Don LaJoie, bought back in 1971 that Randy later inherited as his own. When NASCAR outlawed fiberglass seats in 1994, the younger LaJoie wrapped his seat in aluminum and shortly after that set out to find someone to copy the seat.
The problem was, no one would. Some called it too difficult and some called it a ‘piece of crap,’ as LaJoie pointed out. That set the two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion’s wheels in motion to create a comfortable and safe racing seat for racers of all different disciplines. Now, more than two decades later, the Joie of Seating remains at the top of the racing safety industry.
“I had already won two championships in that seat,” LaJoie told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Being a crash test dummy myself and switching to aluminum in 1994, that’s what stated the birth of the Joie of Seating. The investment I had to put in to form-fit the seat, there was no one in the area that would form-fit the fiberglass seat that was molded for me. “
Still today, comfort and safety are what LaJoie prides himself on at the Joie of Seating. The comfort factor stems from the fact that LaJoie’s seats are round and designed to better fit drivers’ bodies.
“I’m putting a round plug in a round hole,” said LaJoie, “Since it’s round, your hips and your butt fit in the seat. People don’t have square butts – that’s the way everyone else’s seats are. Mine fit and they are comfortable.”
And, of course, safety is top concern for LaJoie. A self-proclaimed “crash test dummy,” LaJoie said over his years of racing and crashing he has learned where he needed to make certain areas stronger. He is also part of the NASCAR R&D program and feels some of the new technology that’s in the Cup seats should be brought to short tracks. With some of these ideas in mind, LaJoie is releasing a new seat this summer.
“The new seat for the short track market is going to be like, ‘Okay guys, bolt this in the car in these seven spots, the belts are attached and go on, have fun,” said LaJoie. “I’m also working with (2015 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion) Jonathan Davenport on some stuff for the dirt market. I currently have about 20 to 30-percent of the dirt market, but it’s an area I want to take and really go after with this new style seat.”
Like with any other part that is bolted onto a racecar, there are varying levels of cost for racing seats. While LaJoie admits that his products are not on the low end of the price scale, safety is not an area where racers should pinch pennies.
“I’m the best aluminum seat out there,” said LaJoie. “If I’m a car brand, I’m a Cadillac. There are people that will buy a Prius because they can’t afford the Cadillac. Safety-wise I don’t understand why they wouldn’t go for the safest thing out there. I’ve educated the other (seat companies) enough that their stuff is better than it was, but still not as good as mine.”
With safety always a top concern, LaJoie travels to about 25 races a year for his Safer Racer Program, a non-profit he started seven years ago with a goal to educate drivers on safety.
“One of the things I see by going on the road is there isn’t anyone looking inside of these racecars,” said LaJoie. “They don’t have the personnel NASCAR does. There’s new safety stuff, but that info doesn’t go to Wisconsin or Iowa. They don’t know, so I’ll take the videos and go to these tracks. Sometimes they let me talk at the drivers meeting. I’ll look at pretty much every car. Some people don’t want to hear from me, but for some it seems to be working. I tell them there’s new information out there, so come by my booth and I’ll show you the video.”
In 2016 and beyond, LaJoie is committed solely to promoting driver safety, whether it’s through the Safer Racer program or having more and more racers staying safe in their racecars with Joie of Seating seats.
“Guys are always going to buy a better seat,” added LaJoie. “It’s a performance enhancer. Racers always like performance-enhancing stuff. But not all of them think that a seat can help that much. When you talk to people who changed to containment seats, they are like, ‘Wow, what a difference.’
“But cost does matter and I’m on the high end. But I have a product that doesn’t go bad. A lot of these other companies sell a cheap seat, knowing in two years you’ll need another cheap seat because it’s gonna break. That’s something that mine don’t do. They are pretty much guaranteed for life.”
To learn more about the Joie of Seating and to see the seat options they offer visit thejoieofseating.com.
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Business Manager – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: Speed51.com