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.’’
Neither driver announced their plans for next season. Other drivers who have not announced 2018 plans include Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne and former champion Matt Kenseth.
Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands as the Cup playoff are set to begin Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
— No. 77: With Erik Jones returning to JGR, team owner Barney Visser is looking to fill that seat. The first concern, though, is sponsorship. Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Aug. 9: “We’ve got no sponsorship right now for the 77,” for next season. “So we’ve got to find something. We don’t want to give up that car, but if we don’t get sponsorship, we’ll have to.” Sponsor 5-Hour Energy has an option to return. The company can’t go to any other Cup team with Monster Energy as series sponsor.
Kurt Busch: With Stewart-Haas Racing declining to pick up his option for next year, Busch is a free agent. Even with Stewart-Haas Racing’s action, there’s still a good chance Busch signs a deal to remain with the organization.
Kasey Kahne: The 2017 Brickyard 400 winner is available after Hendrick Motorsports announced it had released him from the final year of his contract. Rick Hendrick said Aug. 9 that he’s working to help Kahne land a ride for next season and hinted it could be through an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports.
No formulas are required, no charts need to be explained. It’s all quite simple. For 17 eligible Monster Energy Cup drivers, including Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr., they must win Saturday night’s race at Richmond Raceway to make the playoffs.
“It’s pretty simple,’’ Logano said. “You could almost write an article without talking to me.”
Logano won at Richmond in April but the victory does not count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed inspection after the race. While he and his team say that the issue did not directly lead to their struggles since — they cite aero issues and the loss of speed — Logano has not been as competitive.
He had eight top-10 finishes in the nine races leading up to and including the spring Richmond race. Logano has had three top-10 finishes in the 16 races since.
Sunday night’s 18th-place finish in the Southern 500 was a repeat of the team’s woes.
“We just didn’t have the speed,’’ Logano said.
Bowyer also must win at Richmond to make the playoffs in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing. He has two wins at the Virginia track in 23 career starts, but those victories came in 2008 and ’12. He comes into Saturday’s race after a last-place finish in the Southern 500 because of a blown engine.
Earnhardt, in his final full-time season in Cup, will seek to make the playoffs without crew chief Greg Ives this weekend. NASCAR announced after Sunday’s race that two lug nuts were found not secured on Earnhardt’s car. The penalty, which is expected to be announced Wednesday, is a $20,000 fine and one-race suspension for the crew chief.
Should an eligible driver without a victory win Saturday night’s race, they would take the place of either Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth or Jamie McMurray. Those are the only drivers without a victory in a playoff spot at this point. Elliott has 737 points, Kenseth 735 and McMurray 734.
“I just hope we can have a clean race and not have any issues (at Richmond),’’ Elliott said.
Denny Hamlin — Winner: “To win in the Flying 11 and to win the Xfinity race, to win the Cup race, both in very exciting fashion was a great feeling, and tonight through the adversity of missing the pit road and coming back. We had great strategy, a fast car, and it all just worked out in the end. I was hoping it would. Otherwise I would have looked pretty silly after the race trying to explain why we lost.You know, it’s just I think a lot of that came from Truex beating us on a green flag sequence earlier in the day, and so I pushed it a little bit more on pit entry, and I didn’t want it to happen again, and I just pushed it a little bit too much. Kind of a rookie move, but also just trying to optimize everything, and it was just we got our car better as soon as it turned into night. We kept getting the car better, kept making adjustments and kept working on it, and we had something we could win with.’’
Kyle Busch — Finished 2nd: “It was a really good effort for us, really good race for us. I certainly wish that we could have kept pace with (Denny Hamlin) a little bit longer. We were right there with him for a long time, longer than we had all night long in that final stint. But he got through a couple lap cars a little quicker than I did, and then they got side by side and then I got sucked into the fence, and after that it just wasn’t the same, so we just had to try to bide our time and just come home in one piece or nobody was coming behind us, so we just had to ‑ I think we had a seven‑second gap or something behind us so we had a long ways to give up, so we just did that, and (Hamlin) was just the car of the day and class of the field, so congratulations to those guys. We saw it here in practice on Friday, and I was hoping we could hang with them there a little bit more, but I think I made too many adjustments to our car and got us out of place there for the last two stints.’’
Kurt Busch – Finished 3rd: “It was good pit strategy. I was hoping for one more yellow. If there was a yellow with 30 to go, we were a really good car on short run speed. That was the longest run at the end and those guys caught us on their fresher tires, but just to be in position to win the Southern 500 is great. I didn’t quite get the job done, but third is really nice for a big, marquee race. The 78 was fast and those other Toyotas came in there. I thought that I was going to do it for our Fords. We didn’t quite get the job done. To be in position to win the Southern 500, I just want to get a shout out all the fans. It’s a fun weekend to be here on Labor Day weekend.”
Austin Dillon – Finished 4th: “I’m just really proud of this team for bringing out this Dale Earnhardt scheme out and making it run good like that… it means a lot to me and all the RCR guys. That long run was like torture; those guys were coming on (newer) tires so we had to be really smooth and it worked out for us.”
Erik Jones— Finished 5th: “I lost brakes completely for a minute then they came back. I’ve never had an issue like that before, but turned out to be a really good night for us – top-five night. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) did a really nice job with running a really nice strategy there at the end and getting us back in contention and I was hoping we just were going to run in the top 10 and to get a top-five out of it is really good. So our car was good in the day, but when the sun went down we just kind of lost the handle and couldn’t really ever get back and everybody was fighting grip obviously.”
Ryan Newman – Finished 7th: “We had a pretty good car and a couple of bad pit stops. We had one great pit stop, but just never got the track position that we needed for the short run to be able to show what we were capable of on the long run.”
Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 8th: “It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car. I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on. It’s unfortunate we blew the tire, but really proud of everybody on this team for an amazing season so far, and to lock up the regular season points is a huge accomplishment for us, for our team. I feel like we’ve come a long way in just a few years together and continue to climb.’’
Jamie McMurray – Finished 10th: “Well, we had a fan go out that cools the rear end and so we had to come in and work on that. We went to the back, but we could still only get back to about like, I think we got up to sixth in the first stage and then ran somewhere between sixth and 10th or sixth and 12th and we finished 10th. So, probably didn’t really hurt our night. A lot of long green flag runs and we weren’t very good on the short run, but we were really good at the end of a run. So, that kind of worked out to our favor.”
Chase Elliott – Finished 11th: “We just weren’t very good all day and really just as an organization really struggled, so we need to step up. This is the time of year to get it going and it was a hard-fought night. I thought we made the very most of what we had and some days that’s all you can do.”
Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “Our car had respectable short-run speed and then it would just get so loose. With all the long runs, that really didn’t work out well for us, and I actually blew a tire with like 20 laps to go. Fortunately, was on my way into pit lane or almost to where I could turn into pit lane. I got lucky and I was able to get back out there on tires and drive back up to 12th, but blew a tire at the absolute right time if you are going to blow one and got to pit lane.”
Ty Dillon – Finished 13th: “It was a good day. My first Southern 500, I enjoy it. I love this race track. I just love when you come to a track and the tires get worn out and you’ve got to be patient. And you’ve got to treat that throttle pedal like an egg and you can really make a lot of difference on a long run. That was what we were able to do tonight with our GEICO Chevy. I’m just proud of the guys. We had a good piece in practice and it was nice just to have a really solid weekend. When you add in the honor of representing a race car from years past that was driven by Johnny Rutherford and fielded by Smokey Yunick – it really adds to the great night for our GEICO team here at Darlington. Good momentum going back to Richmond another track that we ran really well at. Excited for the end of this year.”
Brad Keselowski – Finished 15th: “We just weren’t where we wanted to be at the end of the race. I was just kind of holding on and we were going to probably run 10th or 12th and I got to trying a little bit too hard and brushed the wall. I ended up probably hurting our car a little bit and we finished 15th. (Crew chief Paul Wolfe) made a good call at the end there to get us into 15th when we probably could have been worse than that, so I was proud of that effort. We just need to be faster.”
Chris Buescher — Finished 17th: “Well, an eventful, very long race at Darlington. Awesome to have Cheerios on board in our Patty Moise throwback. Overall, just a tough start. Kind of knew that the daylight was going to be difficult Then, as the night fell, I feel like we made some gains on it and got it a little better by the end and was able to move around. I think that is all you can ask for is to make steady improvements through the day. We got a decent finish out of it. I wanted a little bit more, but not bad.”
Joey Logano – Finished 18th: “It’s pretty simple (of needing to win Richmond next week to make the playoffs). You could almost write an article without talking to me. We just didn’t have the speed today. The team executed really well. Our pit crew was super-fast and we had a car that was good on the long run sometimes, but never good on the short run. And then at the end, it was horrible on the long run, so we just never really got the balance right. We were good in the day, but when we got to night time all hell broke loose for us. We’re on to the next one.”
Aric Almirola – Finished 20th: “We were just really loose, and we couldn’t make any ground. I thought at times during the race we had a decent car. I thought we had maybe a 15th-place car, but the longer the run we’d just get really loose. We’ll learn from it and keep on going.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. — Finished 22nd: “They pulled me over because I’ve got some loose lug nuts on the right rear. Had a really bad vibration that last run and there was a bunch of them loose on the right-rear. They must have just kind of had a screw up. It wasn’t intentional. They wouldn’t leave two loose like that when they are not even tight up on the wheel. So, something must have happened on the pit stop because those guys have been great all night. Just had a really bad vibration, came in and got tires, we had a flat at the very end. Twelfth to 15th is where we all ran and I’m not too disappointed because we sat there and ran right with our teammates all night.”
Ryan Blaney – Finished 31st: “It was the most frustrating race. I hit the fence early and that was a huge mistake on my part. I don’t know what I was doing. I got tight behind a car and I was kind of offset and I couldn’t see the wall, and I just should have been smarter and lifted. We clawed back from two laps down to get back on the lead lap, which was great. They did a good job. Then we lost a cylinder or something going on in the engine.”
Clint Bowyer — finished 40th: “It just blew up. It’s a pretty inopportune time to have it happen, but it’s never a good time. Doug Yates and all the guys over at his shop do such a good of bringing us reliable, good horsepower and it was just my time. It was my turn and there isn’t much you can do about it. Obviously, the way the playoffs look right now, we’re not out of this thing. We’ve still got a good race track coming up for us. We’ll just go there and do the best we can and put all the cards on the table over there.”
Brad Keselowski – Keselowski will pilot the “Midnight” paint scheme Rusty Wallace made famous in the mid-90s during his time in Team Penske’s No. 2 car. This isn’t the first time Keselowski has driven this look. It was on his No. 2 Ford in August 2015 at Michigan.
Austin Dillon – This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500. Richard Childress Racing is honoring that achievement by putting Earnhardt’s Wrangler paint scheme from that year on Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet and Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.
Kasey Kahne–Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet will pay tribute to Geoffrey Bodine, the first driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. The paint scheme is the same one Bodine had on the No. 5 in 1985 when it was sponsored by Levi Garrett.
Trevor Bayne – The No. 6 Ford will resemble the car Mark Martin drove when the No. 6 was sponsored by Stroh Light from 1988-89. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the paint scheme in the 2016 Xfinity race at Darlington.
Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Ford will have the paint scheme that Dale Jarrett used in his 1999 Cup Series championship year when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. Patrick also will be sponsored by Ford Credit, which was a sponsor on Jarrett’s No. 88 Ford that season.
Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to famed modified driver Ray Hendrick (no relation to Rick Hendrick). “Mr. Modified” was named one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in 1998.
Ty Dillon – Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet looks similar to the way it did in last season’s Southern 500. The car will yet again have a paint scheme that Smokey Yunick once used on the No. 13 car he owned in the 1960s.
Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will have the sponsor and paint scheme that NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin drove in the Xfinity Series from 1988-1991. All three of the Southern 500 Throwback Weekends have featured Martin paint schemes.
Reed Sorenson – His car honors car owner Bud Moore, who was inducted with the 2011 class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Brett Bodine originally raced this paint scheme in 1989.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will once again pay tribute to former No. 17 driver Darrell Waltrip. Stenhouse’s paint scheme is modeled after the one Waltrip drove in the 1997 season.
Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will bear the paint scheme used by Jimmy Vasser in IndyCar in 2002, the year Shell and Pennzoil merged.
Corey LaJoie – The No. 23 Toyota will pay tribute to Davey Allison. LaJoie’s paint scheme will be the one used by Allison in 1984 when he drove a No. 23 Miller High Life Pontiac in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series).
Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver will drive the light blue paint scheme his father Bill Elliott had in his first Cup start on Feb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway.
Ryan Newman – Like Austin Dillon, Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet will evoke Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 Wrangler paint scheme.
Matt DiBenedetto – The Go Fas Racing driver will have the scheme used by Bobby Allison in 1988 when he won the Daytona 500 for his 84th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Jeffrey Earnhardt – The grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. will drive a Lowes Food paint scheme “The Intimidator” used in the Xfinity Series in 1989.
Landon Cassill – The Front Row Motorsports Ford will have the same paint scheme it used last year. It’s based on the look of Love’s Travel Stops’ first store, opened in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981.
Chris Buescher–The No. 37 Chevrolet will resemble the No. 37 driven by Patty Moise in the Xfinity Series in 1988.
David Ragan – The No. 38 Ford will have a paint scheme based on the 1960s look of sponsor Good Sam.
Kyle Larson – The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will pay tribute to team co-owner Felix Sabates and NBCSN analyst Kyle Petty with a paint scheme based on their 1995 Coors Light car. Petty drove for Sabates’ Team SABCO.
Aric Almirola – Four months after Almirola was born in March 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final Cup race in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Almirola will sport the same paint scheme “The King” took to victory lane that day.
AJ Allmendinger – The JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the paint scheme Terry Labonte drove in 1986 when his No. 44 car was sponsored by Piedmont Airlines.
Cody Ware – He and Rick Ware Racing will use this weekend’s car to offer prayers to those in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The car also resembles the Mello Yello paint scheme Kyle Petty once drove.
Derrike Cope – The 1990 Daytona 500 winner will have his own throwback for the Southern 500. Cope will have his paint scheme and sponsor from the 1994 Cup season when he drove the Mane ‘n Tail No. 12 car for Bobby Allison Motorsports.
Cole Whitt – The TriStar Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme that his grandfather, Jim Whitt, nicknamed “Gentleman Jim Whitt,” had when he won the Cajon Speedway Track Championship in a No. 60 car known as the “Lime Green Machine.”
Erik Jones – The Furniture Row Racing rookie will have a special paint scheme that pays tribute to the Cup Rookie of the Year award winners from 1984-89.
Martin Truex Jr. – The Furniture Row Racing car will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bass Pro Shops’ TRACKER Boat line.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – In his final Southern 500 start, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the paint scheme Earnhardt used during his two championship seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998-99. Earnhardt drove the No. 3 AC Delco car for Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 13 races over the course of the two seasons.
Michael McDowell – The No. 95 Chevrolet, owned by Leavine Family Racing, will bear the paint scheme 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki drove in his Rookie of the Year season in 1986. LFR operates out of the same shop Kulwicki did until his death in a 1993 plane crash.
Other Throwback Weekend paint schemes:
Elliott Sadler (Xfinity Series) – Sadler will drive a tribute to Cale Yarborough and his Hardee’s paint scheme.
Michael Annett – The JR Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme used by Brad Doty in the World of Outlaws sprint car series in the 1980s.
Justin Allgaier – The JR Motorsports veteran will have a paint scheme based on the Mom ‘n’ Pops scheme that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Kerry Earnhardt used when they competed in late models.
William Byron – The JR Motorsports rookie will pay tribute to the late Ricky Hendrick, the son of Rick Hendrick, with a paint scheme inspired by the one he drove to his only Truck Series win in 2001.
Blake Koch – The Kaulig Racing driver will again drive an old Darrell Waltrip paint scheme. Koch’s No. 11 Chevrolet is inspired by Waltrip’s 1985 Budweiser scheme that he won that season’s Cup title in.
J.J. Yeley – The No. 14 car will be based on an old A.J. Foyt car that the four-time Indy 500 winner raced in NASCAR.
Ryan Reed – The Roush Fenway Racing driver will have the Zerex paint scheme Alan Kulwicki drove in 1989.
Daniel Hemric – The Richard Childress Racing driver will have the paint scheme that Jeff Green drove in 2002 when he competed for RCR.
Dakoda Armstrong– The JGL Racing driver has a more faithful tribute to Cale Yarborough’s Hardee’s paint scheme.
Ryan Sieg – The RSS racing drive will pay tribute to his brother, Shane Sieg, who died two weeks ago at the age of 34. The paint scheme was used by Shane Sieg in late model racing.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick will drive the original Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme that was first used in 2008 by Ken Schrader.
Matt Tifft – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will honor Dale Earnhardt Sr., driving the paint scheme Earnhardt used in one race in 1977 when he drove the No. 19 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Erik Jones – Jones will pay tribute to Davey Allison with his 1988 rookie paint scheme.
Jeremy Clements – The No. 51 car will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt and his 1964 win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Clements’ grandfather, Crawford, served as Foyt’s crew chief for the race.
Dylan Lupton – The JGL Racing driver will pilot the “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme of his childhood idol, Jeff Gordon.
Cole Custer – The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will pay tribute to two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard.
Brendan Gaughan – An eight-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series, Gaughan will be sponsored by NAPA and feature the paint scheme he had for his first two Truck wins at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002.
Brandon Brown – The No. 90 Chevrolet will pay tribute to the late Dick Trickle, who made 303 Cup starts from 1970-2002. The scheme is based on Trickle’s Heilig-Meyer’s car.
Brad Keselowski Racing (Camping World Truck Series) – The two trucks owned by BKR, the No. 19 driven by Austin Cindric and the No. 29 of Chase Briscoe, will have paint schemes dedicated to the Keselowski family’s racing history for the Sept. 3 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Austin Cindric – The purple and white paint scheme was used on cars driven by Keselowski’s uncle, Ron Keselowski, in both USAC and the NASCAR Cup Series. From 1970-74, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in 68 starts as a driver, including a pair of fifth-place finishes in back-to-back seasons at Michigan International Speedway.
Chase Briscoe – The No. 29 truck will bear the paint scheme driven by Brad Keselowski’s father, Bob, to victory lane in 1997 at Richmond. It was his only win in 86 Truck series starts.
John Hunter Nemechek – The son of Joe Nemechek will have the BellSouth paint scheme “Front Row Joe” had in the Cup series in 1999 when he won his first of four Cup races.