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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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Silly Season scorecard features many drivers still looking for rides

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Image
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Kasey Kahne is off the job market after signing to drive next season with Leavine Family Racing. His arrival means that Michael McDowell, the current driver of the No. 95 car, will be gone after the season.

Leavine Family Racing, which has never won a Cup race, gets an 18-time Cup winner in Kahne, who won the Brickyard 400 in July.

Here’s a look at where Silly Season stands as Cup teams head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s playoff race.

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

— Kasey Kahne to join Leavine Family Racing and drive the No. 95 car. (announcement made Sept. 19)

Ty Dillon signs a multi-year contract to remain at Germain Racing and drive the No. 13 car. Sponsor Geico also extends its deal with the team (announcement made Sept. 5)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty and drive the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

William Byron will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive the No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

— No. 10: Danica Patrick is out after this season at Stewart-Haas Racing. No replacement has been announced. 

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season.

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch told reporters Aug. 5 at Watkins Glen that “there are a couple of offers already, so we’ll see how things work out.’’  

— No. 43: Richard Petty Motorsports announced Sept. 12 that Aric Almirola will not return to the team. Smithfield also is not returning. Smithfield and Richard Petty Motorsports exchanged terse statements about their parting. RPM is selling Darrell Wallace Jr. to prospective sponsors.  

— No. 77: Furniture Row Racing has sold the charter to this team. Although the team is still looking for sponsorship for the team, Joe Garone, team president, said the chances of the organization running only one car next year is “high.’’

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. Doesn’t have anything announced for next year. At Bristol, Kenseth was asked about his plans for 2018. He said: “I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it.’’  

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.

Danica Patrick: She will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick has not announced any plans for next season. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.  

Aric Almirola: Won’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports, team announced Sept. 12.

Michael McDowell: Will not return to Leavine Family Racing with Kasey Kahne joining the team next season.

Darrell Wallace Jr.: Richard Petty Motorsports is selling Wallace to prospective sponsors for the No. 43 car for next season. He gained interest from RPM after driving in four races for the team while Aric Almirola was injured.

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Kyle Petty: Brad Keselowski almost beyond ‘point of diminishing returns’ on Toyota criticism

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Brad Keselowski again was vocal this week with criticisms of Toyota and its performance level of late in the Cup Series, saying on Twitter that he hasn’t seen NASCAR “let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the ’70s.”

The tweet was followed by rebukes from Toyota drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and crew chief Cole Pearn.

Keselowski’s latest comments followed those he made in July and August about the manufacturer.

NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett responded to Keselowski’s continued criticisms of Toyota before Sunday’s Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

“Yes Brad, we know that you’re disgruntled,” Petty said. “We know what you think. We understand that. It’s time to kind of quiet down a little bit, do your job. Because you’re almost past that point of diminishing returns on what you’re saying, where it becomes whining and it’s not very constructive.

“We’re in the playoffs, this is a special time for the sport. Let’s focus on what’s going on on the race track.”

Said Jarrett: “I think Toyota has an advantage. Was it something they were given? No. Is it unfair? No. They worked extremely hard to make all of this happen.”

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

Silly Season heats up with more driver moves

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Tuesday brought the news that Danica Patrick won’t be back with Stewart-Haas Racing after this season and that Aric Almirola also won’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports for 2018.

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).

ANNOUNCED RIDES FOR 2018

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing, replacing Matt Kenseth (announcement made July 11)

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. (announcement made July 20)

Brad Keselowski agrees to contract extension to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske (announcement made July 25

Ryan Blaney moves to Team Penske to drive the No. 12 car and signs a multi-year contract extension (announcement made July 26)

Paul Menard moves to Wood Brothers Racing to drive the No. 21 car (announcement made July 26)

William Byron will drive the No. 5 at Hendrick Motorsports, replacing Kasey Kahne (announcement made Aug. 9)

Matt DiBenedetto will remain with Go Fas Racing in the team’s No. 32 car (announcement made Aug. 12)

Chris Buescher signs a multi-year contract to remain at JTG Daugherty and drive the No. 37 car. (announcement made Aug. 18)

Ty Dillon signs a multi-year contract to remain at Germain Racing and drive the No. 13 car. Sponsor Geico also extends its deal with the team (announcement made Sept. 5)

OPEN/POSSIBLY OPEN RIDES

— No. 10: Danica Patrick is out after this season at Stewart-Haas Racing. No replacement has been announced. 

— No. 27: Richard Childress Racing states it will announce plans for a third Cup team at a later date with Paul Menard joining the Wood Brothers for next season.

— No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing declined to pick up the option on Kurt Busch’s contract for next year on Aug. 1. Even so, the team tweeted that it expected Busch back with sponsor Monster Energy for next year. Busch told reporters Aug. 5 at Watkins Glen that “there are a couple of offers already, so we’ll see how things work out.’’  

— No. 43: Richard Petty Motorsports announced Sept. 12 that Aric Almirola will not return to the team. Smithfield also is not returning. Smithfield and Richard Petty Motorsports exchanged terse statements about their parting. RPM is selling Darrell Wallace Jr. to prospective sponsors.  

— 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.

AVAILABLE DRIVERS

Matt Kenseth: Out of the No. 20 after this season. Doesn’t have anything announced for next year at this point. At Bristol, Kenseth was asked about his plans for 2018. He said: “I’ll be honest with you … I’m not worried about (2018) even really one percent anymore to be honest with you. I’m just not concerned about it.’’  

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. 

Danica Patrick: She will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing after this season. Patrick has not announced any plans for next season. She’s not looking for a ride in the Xfinity Series. “Cup only,’’ she said.  

Aric Almirola: Won’t return to Richard Petty Motorsports, team announced Sept. 12.

GMS Racing/Spencer Gallagher: GMS Racing confirmed on Aug. 30 that it will not have a full-time Cup entry in 2018. The organization, which fields teams in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, had looked into moving to Cup.

Darrell Wallace Jr.: Richard Petty Motorsports is selling Wallace to prospective sponsors for the No. 43 car for next season. He gained interest from RPM after driving in four races for the team while Aric Almirola was injured. Wallace said Aug. 4 that he’s focused on finding a ride for next year with so few options left for this year.

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Guide to NASCAR’s hurricane relief efforts (video)

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The city of Houston and its surrounding areas are still in the early stages of the recovery process from Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 hurricane that impacted the Texas coast last week.

At the same time, the state of Florida is bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irma this weekend.

Multiple drivers and teams in NASCAR are doing their part to help those in need by establishing relief funds, food drives and other means for helping victims of the hurricane.

Here’s a look at different ways NASCAR is helping.

Richmond Raceway

The track and Team Penske’s Joey Logano have partnered to host a silent auction to support hurricane relief efforts prior to Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 . The silent auction will include original pieces of race memorabilia from Team Penske, Richmond Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Furniture Row Racing and other NASCAR teams with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross. The silent auction will be held from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Commonwealth Mall outside The Classic Amphitheater.

Talladega Superspeedway/Atlanta Motor Speedway/Charlotte Motor Speedway/Bristol Motor Speedway 

Both Atlanta and Talladega have opened their campgrounds free of charge to evacuees from the path of Hurricane Irma.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will open its Rock City Campground beginning at 7 a.m. Friday morning for evacuees heading north or inland from Hurricane Irma.

Accommodations will be available as long as possible prior to potential landfall. Evacuees should access Rock City Campground off Bruton Smith Boulevard through Entrance Z and will have access to bathhouse facilities on speedway property.

Evacuees are asked to check in at the ticket office on the second floor of Smith Tower at the speedway’s main entrance, starting as early as Friday morning. After-hour arrivals will be handled by Charlotte Motor Speedway security.

Bristol Motor Speedway’s campgrounds also opened Friday.

Brennan Poole/Chip Ganassi Racing

Brennan Poole, driver of Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 car in the Xfinity Series, once lived in The Woodlands, Texas, which is about 30 miles from downtown Houston.

Poole and his girlfriend, Lindsey Giannini, have started a drive called “Poole for Texas” which collects food and funds for the Houston Food Bank.

Containers for non-perishable foods were collected at CGR’s Concord, North Carolina, shop on Wednesday.

For those wishing to make a cash or check donation, there will be a collection box in the CGR gift shop available until Sept. 13. Checks should be made out to the Houston Food Bank.

Online monetary donations can be made through a youcaring.com page. Just $1 is good for three meals. The highest fund contribution will receive a piece of Brennan’s car.

First Data, which sponsors Kyle Larson and the fall race at Martinsville Speedway, is helping business owners in “FEMA defined coverage areas.”

Hendrick Motorsports

All four of Hendrick’s driver have established a relief fund with a goal of raising $500,00o in the next two weeks.

Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott have contributed a combined $200,000 to establish the fund and are now encouraging the public to join the effort by making a donation before midnight ET on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Tax-deductible contributions can be made by visiting HendrickRelief.org.

Hendrick Automotive has also pledged $100,000 to the fund.

All donations to the campaign will benefit qualified charitable organizations supporting disaster relief efforts, including the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which is housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

On Thursday, members of Johnson’s pit crew volunteered at a Lowe’s to help prepare supplies for hurricane victims.

Joey Logano/Shell

Shell, Logano’s primary sponsor, has donated $1 million to the America Red Cross’ Hurricane Harvey disaster relief fund. Logano has donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross and opened a donation portal through the Joey Logano Foundation to collect funds on behalf of the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief.

All proceeds donated through JLF this month will go to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey disaster relief fund.

Logano will have a Red Cross-inspired red-and-white paint scheme Saturday at Richmond Raceway that will raise awareness for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Stewart-Haas Racing

Two sponsors for SHR are involved in relief efforts.

Code 3 Associates, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas, is deployed in Southeast Texas and is also preparing to respond to Hurricane Irma.

Anheuser-Busch will deliver five extra truckloads – over 255,000 cans – of emergency drinking water to Houston, Corpus Christi and Austin.

Due to very high levels of demand for emergency drinking water supplies, the Cartersville, Georgia, brewery will pause beer production on Monday to produce more clean, safe emergency drinking water.

Tony Gibson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, and his wife Beth Gibson, donated a pallet of water, diapers and wipes to be delivered to Texas last weekend.

Leavine Family Racing

LFR and driver Michael McDowell have teamed up with Convoy of Hope and donated to Hurricane Harvey relief. Texas is home to the Leavines.

Convoy of Hope will be included on McDowell’s No. 95 Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond.

Via Leavine Family Racing

Elliott Sadler

The JR Motorsports driver donated his winnings from Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington to relief efforts.

David Starr

A native of Houston, Starr has donated “a substantial amount of money” to the American Red Cross and will return to his home city next week to lend a hand.

Furniture Row

The parent company of Furniture Row Racing is donating $1 million in bedding to hurricane victims in Texas and Louisiana to be distributed through their partner World Vision, and in turn their community partners.

The company also had a disaster relief campaign with World Vision so people can donate directly through Furniture Row’s site. Here is a direct link: www.worldvision.org/furniturerow.

Matt Kenseth/Toyota

Kenseth will drive the Hurricane Harvey Relief Toyota this weekend at Richmond.

The Toyota Mothers of Invention (MOI) program recognizes women who actively contribute through innovation, entrepreneurship and invention. Select MOIs with ties to disaster response and relief have sprung into action, finding ways to solve steep challenges resulting from the disaster situation in south Texas and Louisiana.

Toyota is partnering with DayOne Response and Well Aware, an Austin-based MOI organization that will assist with training and water distribution, along with LuminAID to bring water purification bags, portable phone chargers and lanterns to those affected by Harvey:

DayOne Response: Invented a water filtration bag that takes 30 minutes to purify water. One bag will provide clean drinking water for a family of four for two months. There are approximately 10,000 people in Houston in need of access to clean water while infrastructure is restored.
LuminAID: Invented lightweight, long-lasting, solar-charged lanterns and portable phone chargers to aid those without electricity during disaster situations.

Richard Childress Racing

The team began collecting bottled water and individual snack packages for Harvey relief on Wednesday. People can bring their donations to the RCR Museum and put them in a tractor-trailer the team has commissioned. RCR is not asking for clothes or non-perishable food – it will not make it to Texas.