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.’’