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Maine-owned NASCAR team replaces Terry Labonte with Bobby Labonte for four races

Alex Barber | BDN
Alex Barber | BDN
Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire of Old Orchard Beach talks to a crew member after the G-Oil 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

The Labonte brothers, Terry and Bobby, have combined to win three NASCAR Sprint Cup points championships. Older brother Terry captured championships in 1984 and 1996 and Bobby annexed the title in 2000.

Terry Labonte was the most successful of the nine drivers who drove for the Go FAS Racing team co-owned by Old Orchard Beach’s Archie St. Hilaire this past Sprint Cup season, but he has retired and will be replaced by his brother for the four superspeedway races.

Terry Labonte notched the race team’s only two top-20 finishes as he wound up 20th in the Daytona 500 and 11th in the Coke Zero 400, also at Daytona International Speedway. He was 24th and 33rd at the two races at Talladega Superspeedway.

“It’s going to be a good transition from Terry to Bobby,” said St. Hilaire.

Bobby Labonte has won 21 races, posted 115 top-five finishes and 203 top-10s during his 721-race Sprint Cup career over 23 years.

Road course specialist Boris Said will also return to Go FAS Racing for the two road course races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway.

Said finished 25th at Watkins Glen and 35th at Sonoma.

Several drivers are being considered for the other races, including 20-year-old Fort Kent native Austin Theriault, according to St. Hilaire. St. Hilaire said they are also trying to help Theriault land a NASCAR Nationwide Series ride.

St. Hilaire said he learned a lot as a co-owner of a full-time Sprint Cup team for the first time.

His team had finished 27th in owner points in the Nationwide Series in 2013 and he entered into a partnership with former Sprint Cup crew chief Frank Stoddard, whose FAS Lane Racing team was 37th in owner points in the Sprint Cup series that year.

The underfunded Go FAS Racing team, which has just 12 full-time employees, wound up 38th in Sprint owner points this past season.

“I think we met expectations,” said St. Hilaire. “It’s hard but it’s rewarding.”

The team qualified for every race, which was a source of pride for St. Hilaire and his son, Mason St. Hilaire, who is the team’s general manager and admitted that the jump from Nationwide to Sprint Cup was much more pronounced than he anticipated.

“It was a totally different animal,” said Mason, a 2012 University of Southern Maine graduate.

The team had just two races it didn’t finish and completed 95.65 percent of the laps, which is good for the sponsors who had their logos on the cars.

Their average starting spot was 38th and their average finish was 33rd in the 43-car fields.

The team earned $3,303,112 based on its finishes and between that and sponsorship dollars, Archie St. Hilaire said, “We nearly broke even.”

The St. Hilaires said now that they have established themselves as a legitimate Sprint Cup team, they have been hearing from more potential sponsors and drivers who are interested in them.

“I would rather have one driver for the whole season but Bobby didn’t want to commit for the whole year and Boris just does road courses. [Having a lot of drivers] works for us, money-wise,” said Archie St. Hilaire.

“We’re already much further ahead of where we were at this time last year,” said Mason St. Hilaire, referring to sponsor and driver interest. Drivers will bring sponsorship money with them.

Archie St. Hilaire said it costs approximately $150,000 to run a race and the St. Hilaires will discuss with sponsors the races and drivers they may support.

The St. Hilaires said they are leaning toward signing young drivers for 28 races while putting New England or northeast drivers in the cars for the two Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Travis Kvapil, who is 38 and has eight top 10s in 267 Sprint Cup races, drove 16 races for them and J.J. Yeley, who also has eight top 10s in 220 career races, manned the cockpit for three races.

Twenty-nine-year-old Blake Koch and 21-year-old Joey Gase each drove four races with Timmy Hill, Kyle Fowler and Eddie MacDonald each driving one. Massachusetts native MacDonald ran one of the New Hampshire events.

Yeley will definitely not be back, said Archie St. Hilaire.

“We love giving young drivers and their families the chance to live out their dreams. That’s one of the most gratifying parts of the job,” said Mason St. Hilaire. “And the veteran drivers help us, points-wise, so we can keep going with young drivers.”

The team is currently refurbishing their 10 Ford race cars and will probably buy some 1-year-old castoff race cars from Roush Fenway Racing, with whom they have a healthy working relationship.

“Buying year-old cars makes it affordable for us,” said Archie St. Hilaire.

“We don’t lack for power on the straightaways but we have to get our cars to turn better,” said Archie St. Hilaire, who noted that their lack of engineers and equipment, like a $7 million simulator, make it difficult for them to negotiate corners with the precision of the high-budget teams.

They are hoping to add an engineer or some engineering expertise.

The St. Hilaires would like to finish in the top 35 in owner points next season. Clint Cram will return as the crew chief, although Stoddard will be the crew chief for Labonte’s four restrictor plate races.

 


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