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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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Report: Lower-tier charters sell for $2-3 million; Front Row withdrew from Race Team Alliance

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Charters belonging to smaller NASCAR Cup teams have, on average, been sold or leased for between $2-3 million, according to a report by the Sports Business Journal.

The charter system was introduced before the 2016 season and guarantees the team that owns one a starting spot in a Cup race.

There are 36 charters. With fields reaching a maximum of 40 cars in races, the cars without charters are considered “open” teams.

Eight charters were sold or leased during the last offseason. Among them SBJ reports, Tommy Baldwin Racing sold its charter to Leavine Family Racing for $3.5 million. BK Racing also sold one of its charters to Front Row Motorsports for about $2 million.

With three charters, FRM turned around and leased one to TriStar Motorsports for this season. It will revert back to FRM before the 2018 season, allowing it the opportunity to field a third car.

“Probably halfway through this year we’ll have to get serious on a direction,” team general manager Jerry Freeze told Racer.com last week.  “But right now we’re just really more focused on trying to get these two cars as competitive as we can.”

An anonymous NASCAR official told SBJ that the cost of a charter for larger teams could reach as high as $8 million more than what a team like Front Row Motorsports would get for on its charters.

This price increase is based on the historical performance of those more successful teams. The charter transactions this offseason also included larger deals involving equipment or debt assumption according to the report. But charters themselves don’t include “hard assets” of  “real estate, intellectual property, technology and equipment.”

SBJ also reports that Front Row quietly exited the Racing Team Alliance in the offseason and that its place was taken by Leavine Family Racing, which owns the No. 95 of Michael McDowell.

Freeze told SBJ it had “internal reasons” for leaving the group, which still includes 14 race teams with the addition of Leavine Family Racing. Wood Brothers Racing and Furniture Row Racing are also not part of the group.

Founded in 2014 in an effort by teams to help lower costs and unify the team’s voices, sources told SBJ teams pay a five-figure annual fee to be part of the RTA.

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NASCAR releases list of Cup teams with charters in 2017

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Earlier this year NASCAR implemented a charter system in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The system guarantees starting spots to 36 teams in the 40-car field.

The initial charter distribution was based on teams who attempted to qualify for every race for the previous three seasons.

In the midst of this offseason, while drivers switch teams, a number of charters have been leased or sold from one organization to another.

NASCAR.com has the list of current homes for all 36 charters with five having changed hands since the end of the season.

The only charter not currently assigned to a car is one sold by HScott Motorsports to Premium Motorsports.

Here’s the list of teams with charters.

2016 car 2017 car Team with charter for 2017
23 23 BK Racing
83 83 BK Racing
1 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
42 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
34 34 Front Row Motorsports
38 38 Front Row Motorsports
46 77 Furniture Row Racing (purchased from Premium Motorsports)
78 78 Furniture Row Racing
13 13 Germain Racing
44 32 Go Fas Racing (leased No. 44 charter from Richard Petty Motorsports)
5 5 Hendrick Motorsports
24 24 Hendrick Motorsports
48 48 Hendrick Motorsports
88 88 Hendrick Motorsports
11 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
18 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
19 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
20 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
16 37 JTG Daugherty Racing (Leased No. 16 charter from Roush Fenway)
47 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
7 95 Leavine Family Racing (Charter bought from Tommy Baldwin Racing)
15 TBD Premium Motorsports
3 3 Richard Childress Racing
27 27 Richard Childress Racing
31 31 Richard Childress Racing
43 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
6 6 Roush Fenway Racing
17 17 Roush Fenway Racing
4 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
10 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
14 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
41 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
2 2 Team Penske
22 22 Team Penske
32 21 Wood Brothers Racing (Charter leased from Go Fas Racing)