Go Fas Racing has eight years and 206 races of NASCAR Cup Series competition under its belt, and the team has been developing “100 percent” as hoped.
“Sometimes it’s even scary to think about,” Mason St. Hilaire tells RACER.
St. Hilaire is the general manger of father Archie St. Hilaire’s team, a single-car operation that first debuted in 2012. What began as a part-time venture with early exits from races and a revolving door of drivers has been developed into a full-time team with one primary wheelman.
Like any team, Go Fas started out with goals in mind, and among them was to perhaps become a kind of Ford development team; one with an alliance to a bigger contender. Understanding that it’s hard to find the necessary $25 million to compete for a victory, Go Fas, which operates on about a quarter of the budget that winning organizations do, has been focused on building itself up, and each year has been “getting a little bit better and a little bit better.
“And,” as St. Hilaire continues, “that’s made this program scarily expanding.”
The next part of that process happens this year, when Go Fas is primed to take another step forward by finally having that technical alliance. In working with Stewart-Haas Racing, the organization will have chassis, data and technical support available to it. Archie St. Hilaire has relocated from Maine to North Carolina and will be working even closer alongside his son.
“We put all our eggs in this basket to see what the year is going to do going into 2021,” says Mason. “My dad is a businessman first and a racer second, so he makes those logical decisions on what he’d like to do and we’ve been growing little by little. So, we’re very happy with the state of where Go Fas is.”
While Go Fas will have more resources available than ever before, its SHR partnership is not at the level of some of the sport’s other alliances. This is not a relationship like what Leavine Family Racing has with Joe Gibbs Racing, or what Wood Brothers Racing is to Team Penske. The No. 32 Go Fas Ford is not a de facto fifth Stewart-Haas Racing team.
SHR is unloading cars that are no longer needed, which is perfect because the cars Go Fas had been running were old Roush Fenway or Front Row Motorsports machinery, some dating back to when Richard Petty Motorsports was still in the Ford family. Go Fas wore those cars out and the SHR cars, which were run in 2019, will give the small team a much newer fleet.
“Right now, we’ve only got 9,000-square feet at our shop,” says St Hilaire. “So if you ever came over and looked at it, you’d be walking through all these cars because they’re in, like, a Daytona line from the front door all the way through our setup (area), out in our fab shop and hanging out in the back. We’ve got 12 of them. Each of them comes with its own little pedigree, so we’ll know whether the body was trimmed out for a 750 (horsepower) track or a 550 track; we’ll know where they raced each one of the cars.
“The other day Todd Frazier over there at SHR, he texted me and he’s like, ‘This car coming over right now was a Kevin Harvick car, raced at Phoenix, and it’s got five wins on it.’ So, you’re like, ‘alright, this car ain’t too bad right here.’”
Included in the fleet is one superspeedway car and nine intermediates. Half of those 10 cars have the parts and pieces on them, and the rest are shells or just a chassis. “Our technical alliance will move us from there to knowing how to utilize those parts to the best of our ability,” St Hilaire says.
Corey LaJoie will run for a second season with Go Fas Racing this year. LaJoie has seen a few of the cars and admitted they look “pretty nice,” and he’s been excited to get seats mounted.
LaJoie matched the organization’s best finish in the points last year at 29th, while also matching its single-season mark of two top-10 finishes. Naturally, he’s taken pride in helping improve where the team has been running during a race, which is about two to three spots better than it managed with Matt DiBenedetto in 2017-18. The son of two-time Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie has always made it known he’s worked hard for every opportunity he’s had in racing, and along the way has felt he’s made the most out of having less.
Getting a second season with the same team is a comfort to LaJoie, because he knows what makes his group tick. To that end, it doesn’t hurt that LaJoie, in the words of St. Hilaire, is a racer at heart and the group at Go Fas is the same. It is easy to feed off LaJoie’s passion for his career and for racing, to relate to his knowledge of all kinds of racing and easy-going personality.
LaJoie has made Go Fas better. When a team knows its driver is consistently pushing for good finishes, it makes the grind much easier, given how hard it can be competing every weekend knowing it will only be good enough to finish 25th to 28th. But, as St. Hilaire explains, when the goal is to beat teams like Front Row who are outspending them, that’s fun. That is a win. And LaJoie did finish ahead of one of the FRM cars (David Ragan) in the points.
The only major change to the team this year is Ryan Sparks being hired as crew chief, which LaJoie has high hopes about. He’s also excited by the prospect of being able to build upon his own continuity with the team.
“I didn’t realize how big continuity and experience are,” LaJoie tells RACER. “I would like to think when I was doing a part-time schedule I was as sharp as I could be when jumping in the car, but that’s not the case when you’re able to jump in the car each and every week.
“You just get more acquainted with the guys, and you kind of have a baseline and it’s closer when you start at the racetrack. Your communication is better with the crew chief, that way you can kind of get the balance honed in in less time during practice, and all the guys [are] on the same page making changes. Experience is big, and I gained a lot of that last year.
“I went to a couple tracks for the first time like Sonoma and the Roval, and I think I went to Watkins Glen for the second time, so there’s places I still need to get more seat time at – especially at the road courses, I need to get better. I’m excited to work hard on that, and figure out the areas that I’m weak and make those a little stronger.”
Once the dust settles from the west coast swing, LaJoie believes Go Fas will have a good idea of where it stacks up against its competition, and from there it can set expectations for the remainder of the year. What he does know is that this year won’t be any worse, with an uptick in the budget and some newer cars.
Schluter Systems is returning as a sponsor and is spending more money. Keen Parts will also be back, and has added a race. There will also be new partners St. Hilaire says haven’t yet been announced.
As for the cars, LaJoie is keeping things realistic. Although he expects to run better, it won’t be a massive jump.
“I’d like to be two to three spots better a week,” LaJoie says.
If LaJoie and company were to do so, it would solidify St. Hilaire’s assertion about Go Fas Racing’s continued growth.
“I think as cliché as it is, we are excited for another good season,” says St. Hilaire. “This is something that my father and I have been chipping away at for a while – just to try to get a little bit better every season – and I think as a program, with the drivers we brought in and all the employees we have, we’ve been able to each year. I think this year was the right time to make another step. We’ve always tried to grab another spot, grab another couple spots each year, and if we can grab a couple, one day we’ll hopefully be out front.
“We think going into this year we should grab a couple of spots, maybe sit around 25th, 24th, somewhere around there. If you look at the people that are in that area, that’s a pretty big deal, so we think we should definitely be competing more with the guys from Front Row and then really knocking on the doors and competing with those JTG guys, and the 13 [Ty Dillon] and the 43 [Darrell Wallace Jr.]. The Stewart-Haas alliance we think is just a step in the right direction for building our program, so going into 2020 it does add that little bit more excitement. We’re definitely excited.”