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Wood Brothers playoff run could be worth $1 million to another Cup team

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JOLIET, Illinois — Car owner Archie St. Hilaire is nine weeks away from what could be a $1 million payout after winning the equivalent of the NASCAR lottery.

When Ryan Blaney won at Pocono in June to make the playoffs, it wasn’t just the Wood Brothers who celebrated. Although Matt DiBenedetto finished 32nd for St. Hilaire’s team that day, St. Hilaire says he was “hooting and hollering’’ when Blaney held off Kevin Harvick to win.

A victory for the Wood Brothers also was a victory for St. Hilaire’s team.

Go Fas Racing benefits because it leased its charter to the Wood Brothers before the season — something teams can do once in a five-year period.

The decision to lease the charter before this season was easy for St. Hilaire. Any team that finishes in the bottom three among charter teams for three consecutive years can lose its charter to NASCAR. Last year, Go Fas Racing finished in the bottom three among charter teams.

“I think NASCAR is pretty serious of the bottom three and you’re out,’’ St. Hilaire told NBC Sports at Chicagoland Speedway. “The marketability of one being in the bottom three two years in a row probably decreases. The first year, you’re the negotiator and the second year, they’re the negotiator and you’re trying to bail out to not be in the bottom three.’’

When St. Hilaire partnered with the Wood Brothers, he admits he thought about the extra money he could receive if the Wood Brothers made the playoffs.

Charters fund Cup teams in four different ways. There’s money for entering each event, race purse, points fund and historical performance.

St. Hilaire says his team received less than $100,000 last year from the historical category. He says that total could be close to $1 million based on how well Blaney does in the playoffs. Blaney is 10th after the first of three races in the opening round. The top 12 advance to the second round.

“I’m rooting for them,’’ St. Hilaire said of Blaney and the Wood Brothers.

For a team with about a budget of about $5.5 million, adding $1 million could increase the budget by nearly 20 percent.

“That’s all funds that we’ll use to race in the future and make us a better team,’’ said St. Hilaire, whose team ranks 33rd in the owner standings heading into Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The better Blaney does in the playoffs, the more valuable the charter becomes.

St. Hilaire, though, must decide what to do with the charter when it is returned after this season. He could keep it and take the money. Or he could sell the charter since it is worth more with the increase in the historical category.

There are a few teams that could be candidates for charters. The Wood Brothers won’t have one for next season after returning their charter to Go Fas Racing. Also, Team Penske will expand to a third car for Blaney and could use a charter. Already, JTG Daugherty has purchased a charter for the No. 37 of Chris Buescher for next season after leasing a charter from Roush Fenway Racing this year.

Should St. Hilaire sell his charter, he’ll lease one like he did this season. After leasing his charter to the Wood Brothers, St Hilaire leased a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports.

There could be many other options for St. Hilarie to lease charters next year.

“I just don’t see that being too hard to find,’’ St. Hilaire said. “We’re talking to about four people. They’re available.’’

He also said he would consider acquiring two charters to run a second team provided a driver can bring funding to the team.

Whatever St. Hilaire does with the charter, he knows what he wants to do with the expected extra money.

“We don’t even have an engineering package,’’ St. Hilaire said. “We’re checking old-fashioned tire temps, spring rates. Matt does a great job. (Crew chief Gene Nead) does a great job. That would be our next step, to get engineering help.’’

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Cole Pearn to honor late friend with fundraiser for family next month in Toronto

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A testimonial to Cole Pearn’s best friend, who unexpectedly passed away in early August, as well as a fundraiser for his family will be held Friday, Jan. 5, at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Pearn’s lifelong friend, Jacob Damen, died unexpectedly after contracting a fast-moving bacterial infection on August 3.

Pearn, crew chief for the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship for Furniture Row Racing, will oversee the gala event, which will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. ET.

The evening will also include an appearance by 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., silent and live auctions, the opportunity to meet both Pearn and Truex and other events.

All net proceeds from the evening will be given to the Damen Family Fund.

“We miss our buddy Jacob dearly,” Pearn said in a media release. “We all have family and friends that fill a space in our hearts that is irreplaceable.

“Jacob filled the hearts of his wife Carolyn, his sons Lucas and Nolan, his parents Jerry and Kim Damen, twin brother Tyler, sister Julia and countless friends.

“We are going to celebrate his life at the perfect spot, the Hockey Hall of Fame, to support his beautiful wife Carolyn and the two boys, Lucas and Nolan. I can’t wait to get home to celebrate with everyone.”

Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the ‘Jacob Damen Friend and Fan Remembered’ event.

NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day scheduled for Jan. 20

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The annual NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will return to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, next month.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, the day after the 2018 Hall of Fame class is inducted.

Fans will be able to take part in an autograph session with current national series drivers, Hall of Famers and members of the NASCAR Next class, as well photo opportunities and question-and-answer sessions with a number of NASCAR legends.

Admission to Hall of Fame will be free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis

Admission to driver autograph sessions is free but will require a ticket for participation. Fans can register for the driver autograph sessions at nascarhall.com beginning Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. ET. A full driver autograph session schedule will be announced at a later date.

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Ryan Blaney to guest star on NBC’s ‘Taken’ next year

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Ryan Blaney has a particular set of skills; skills that he’s developed through years of professional auto racing.

The Team Penske driver will get to display those skills next year on NBC’s “Taken” TV Series.

The show serves as a prequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson film of the same name.

Blaney, 23, will guest start on the second season of the series, which premieres Jan. 12. He will appear in an episode titled “Imperium” as a special agent who knows his way around a car.

Here’s the plot synopsis for the episode.

“When a dangerous weapons dealer smuggles his wares into New York City, Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) teams up with the FBI in a race to stop him before he reaches the safety of international waters.”

This won’t be Blaney’s first time in front of a camera playing someone else. He had two movie cameos this year in Logan Lucky and Cars 3.

Blaney was filming his role in “Taken” on Tuesday in Ontario. See his tweets from the set below.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram update: Leaves ICU, moves to acute care facility

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram’s condition continues to improve following a serious car crash in his native Asheville, North Carolina on Dec. 3.

According to an online post by his daughter, Ingram was taken out of Intensive Care on Tuesday and moved into an Acute Care facility, which is not as serious as ICU is.

Ingram did suffer a small setback in his recovery, developing a slight infection that is being treated with antibiotics.

Added the note from Ingrid Jones, Jack’s daughter, “The acute care facility will work to start decreasing his pain meds, over time, and put him on less narcotics and more simple analgesics (like really strong Tylenol, but without narcotics).

“Also they will continue his therapies, physical and occupational, as he’s able. It is still hard to know what his long-term health future will be, but we think his color looks really good, and we have no doubts that he has the will and determination to see this through.

“So if it is humanly possible for him to overcome, he will.”

We’ll continue to have periodic updates on Ingram’s condition as they become available.