The disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com is sharing stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these unprecedented challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.
Go Fas Racing is using small team status to its advantage during this unexpected racing hiatus due to COVID-19.
“As soon as we got enough information to gather together what different teams were doing, we sat all our guys down and kind of did like an overall update on what COVID-19 was and what we as a company were going to do,” team general manager Mason St. Hilaire told RACER.
“You get the deal about social distancing, but we only have 18 people, we only have 9,000 square-feet, everyone is going to be working near each other at some point. But it’s just keeping two, three guys on each car and trying to go forward with cars that we’ve got coming up because it’s a good time to kind of catch up.”
The Go Fas Racing shop is still open with all its employees working. However, they have cut the work week down to four days. St. Hilaire said the team is working on making sure cars are ready to go for whenever NASCAR racing resumes, which for now is scheduled to be in early May at Martinsville Speedway.
“Then we’re going to get two superspeedway cars done,” said St. Hilaire. “Those are kind of specific animals with pieces and parts that we don’t have to move around too often. So, we’ll get those done, and we’ll get our road course cars done. We’ve got all our guys working and moving forward.”
But if a team member doesn’t feel well, they are sent home immediately. And the group is routinely updated with whatever news bulletins and information that becomes available.
In keeping busy now, St. Hilaire expects to make things easier for his team when racing resumes. If NASCAR’s intention to run all 36 races holds, then it won’t leave much downtime in the future.
“If we’re going to be busting out, let’s say, two races a week, you get one on a Sunday, who knows maybe we run one mid-week, and then kind of go forward from there,” said St. Hilaire. “The guys have to keep busy. From a business standpoint, it’s just a lot of money on small teams upfront because you have to have a chunk of cash to keep payroll going. We’re going to minimize buying of a lot of parts at this point that are unnecessary to make sure that we’re good. But we had a really good run at Daytona, great finish over in Vegas, and solid runs to this point, so as a business, we’re fortunate, and we’re lucky that things turned out the way they have.
“Our full intent is keeping everyone around for the next two months until we are back up in May. There are challenges on both sides; it’s making sure you’re doing the right thing to keep prepared for what races might come. We don’t know yet with the schedule what race is going to be where. I think we’re supposed to hear that at the end of the week, early next week. So once we figure that out, we can set a definite plan. Right now, you try to figure what you’re going to need first.
“Like a Martinsville car. We already had an Atlanta car and Homestead car, so that’s two intermediates with motors in them ready to go, so they’re sitting there on hold for whatever mile-and-a-half we’ll run next. Now it’s, what are the one-off pieces that we can just get together, so that way when Sonoma comes, boom, cars are ready. When Daytona comes, boom. Or Talladega is going to come before that, so boom, we have two speedway cars, and then try to really tweak on a nice piece for Martinsville.”
Regardless of when it will be, the show must go on, and that’s all Go Fas can do right now. But even while forging ahead and planning to keep its employees, there is an unfortunate situation where no racing means no money coming in.
“We’re not racing, so we’re not getting charter money, we’re not getting TV money, we’re not getting ancillary money,” said St. Hilaire. “A lot of the smaller teams on our end rely on weekend paychecks to be able to make sure they can flood it for the next couple of weeks. My father and I called all our sponsors and told them, hey, this is the situation, all these races at this time are planning on being run, and we’ll continue to move forward. All of them said they were going to keep to what we’ve got; their businesses are still rolling, things are still moving, so they’re going to keep doing they’re obligation, so we do yours.
“Let’s say we don’t run 36 races. Then we have to sit down and figure out, all right, now what are we doing? You’ve got to think of all the different possibilities of running a business. But right now, our plan is running all 36 races, and NASCAR being flexible is doing a really great job with trying to figure out what the best plan of attack is to make sure those races do get in.
“I’m fully committed to believing they will get them in. As a small team, without getting that money in is tough. It’s tough. A lot of teams survive on that. You just do what you can and we’re very fortune our sponsors have stuck by us right now, and that we had a really good Daytona, and just solid runs to have some money in the bank to put forward to keep everyone going for the next couple of months.”