Archie St. Hilaire speaks with pride about his Go Fas Racing team, but he doesn’t oversell their efforts. However, the team owner is undoubtedly excited for the upcoming season.
As one of the smallest organizations in the NASCAR Cup Series, just 17 people work in the 11,000-square foot shop in Mooresville. The 2019 season will be the fourth full year in the Cup Series for the No. 32 and the first time Corey LaJoie, its new driver, has competed every weekend. Together, the group isn’t looking to set the world on fire, but there’s hope of improvement and success from their side of the garage.
“We don’t believe in putting a lot of money into our shop; it’s all in the race car and making the best we can with the budget we have,” said St. Hilaire.
Among the positives going into the new year is sponsorship. Between the partners returning to Go Fas and those who have joined with LaJoie, there are about ten races left the team needs to sell. St. Hilaire says this is one of the best spots they’ve been in going into January.
Here is more of what St. Hilaire had to say about his operation following the introduction of LaJoie to the group.
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: What does Corey bring to the program?
Archie St. Hilaire: “We’re a blue-collar race team, and Corey’s a blue-collar driver. He can build a car. He can fix a car. He can drive a car. I think that’s exciting. We’ve got a lot good things happening like 22 plate races coming up next year (because of the new rules package). We’re excited about that. Our best finishes, our three top 10s, have been at those plate races.
“There are three tiers as Mason [St. Hilaire, team general manager] said — the big boys in the $25 million range and then the middle guys. We’re probably the best of the small teams, but every week we race with that middle bunch, the 34, the 38 the 95 and those guys. So, we think we’re going to beat some of those this year especially with this type of racing. We need to be patient and take advantage of every move we can, and I think we’ll have some decent finishes and move up continually. A lot of pressure on [LaJoie] because every year we’ve been in this we’ve gotten better. Matt [DiBenedetto] was 29th in points this year, so it’s all up to him to be better than that.”
Q: Where did Matt DiBenedetto leave you compared to when he started?
St. Hilaire: “First we had Gene Nead as crew chief, who did a great job turning our program around along with Matt. Matt had good feedback. We had some cars that just weren’t good. We bought some new stuff. We upgraded our brake program, our suspension program. We upgraded a lot of stuff. Gene moved on, and we hired Randy [Cox]. Randy is a different personality but just as knowledgeable if not more. Has an engineering background, which is just what we needed. Ford stepped up to the plate, so now we’re looking at a little bit of engineering help from Ford, and Roush Yates motors, they are second to none. So with that combination and new driver, I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat.”
Q: Is this a one-year deal or multi-year?
St. Hilaire: “Whether it’s crew chief, everybody in our business we have a one-year deal. I always say, let’s make sure we like each other. I do it in my regular businesses because after one year if he doesn’t like me or I don’t like him, or somebody doesn’t like somebody, I don’t want to drag anybody through a two or three-year deal. Hopefully, it’s many years but at this point let’s try it and make sure we like each other and move forward from there.”
Q: On using a Team Penske pit crew
St. Hilaire: “They’re not development guys, they are actually [Penske’s] fifth group. They’re going to have the three for them, one for the Wood Brothers and we’ll be their fifth team. But they’re not development guys, they’re full Cup guys.
“Hendrick did a great job, don’t get me wrong. It just bothered me a little bit that the guys would come in Chevrolet jerseys and have to change over. We’re a small team, but down our end of the garage we try to run as professional as we can, and the guys coming in every Sunday morning with their Chevrolet shirts on and having to change to Ford, I wasn’t comfortable. So, we approached Penske and cut a deal. But no bad will on Hendrick.”
Q: You guys go it alone. There is no alliance with another team?
St. Hilaire: “We get a little help from Ford and do it on our own.”
Q: On the desire to potentially run a second car part-time
St. Hilaire: “We had talked to two or three drivers, we’d like to do something on a part-time basis in ’19 if it all works out. The charter thing is up in the air. There’s a couple charters that changed hands, so if we could work a deal with some of them [because] I really don’t like taking open cars, I’m kind of against that open concept really. So, if we could work with somebody that has another charter to maybe fill in some of their races and get some other drivers a shot, maybe we’d do that. But that would not be in this shop; I’d do it on my own on the side. Mason runs this operation, and I don’t want to take away from anything we’re doing. But if we do that, it might be six to eight races.”
Q: Is there a desire eventually to have two fully chartered teams?
St. Hilaire: “Maybe. I don’t know. We got to get up the ladder a little bit first. That’s why I don’t mind dabbling in it like we did in . There’s some good people and I’ve always been fond of the couple of the crew chiefs that are out there maybe in the ARCA Series that do a great job and have some weeks off in-between races. I just don’t want to take away from what we’re doing here. We’re focused. We know what we need to do. We have one-third the budget of the 13, the 95, the 38 and the 34, all those guys that are ahead of us that we run with us every week. So to get to that next step takes a lot of money or a lot of ingenuity, and this group has the ingenuity.”
Q: How does an independent audit of race teams affect you?
St. Hilaire: “Well, I think it’s going to be good. The new model in 2021 when things change over, I think it’s going to be a lot closer to our budget than the big boys. I look and say, geez, I can go from 17 to 50 [people] a lot easier than Hendrick can go from 600 to 200 or 300, whatever it happens to be when we finally come up with a budget that everybody can work with. I think it’s going to happen at some point, don’t know if it’s 2021 or further, but I think there’s got to be a limit to people just not spending everything they want to get it done. Once that’s done, which I think we’re going to see in 2021, not sooner than that, or 2024, I think you’ll see everything closer.
“Next year is crucial to me with those 22 races (for the program to move forward). I think you’re going to see points a lot closer at the end of the season and I think there will be a lot of races with a lot of cars on the lead lap.”