Corey LaJoie should be one of the sentimental favorites at Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire.
That’s because the owner of his Go FAS Racing team, Old Orchard Beach’s Archie St. Hilaire, is the only New England native who currently owns a Cup team and New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the only New England stop in the series.
But the primary sponsor on LaJoie’s No. 32 Ford Mustang is promoting a controversial figure: President Donald J. Trump.
St. Hilaire, who has an underfunded one-car team, reached an agreement with the Patriots of America Political Action Committee that will see “Trump 2020” prominently displayed on the car for nine races.
There were small Trump stickers on the car for the doubleheader at Pocono Raceway on June 27 and 28 but the ‘“Trump 2020” moniker has been much more prevalent since then.
According to Yahoo Sports, the Patriots of America PAC paid St. Hilaire $350,000 for the sponsorship.
In addition to supporting Trump, the PAC is also trying to encourage people to register to vote.
“I have taken a lot of grief over it. A lot of the bigger teams didn’t want to get into the political game or they didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take the deal,” St. Hilaire said. “I had no problem taking it. I support the President. He has done a decent job.”
St. Hilaire readily acknowledged that the financial aspect was also an important component, since they are competing against much larger teams with many more resources.
“It was a good deal for Trump and a good deal for us,” St. Hilaire said.
His Go FAS racing team is having its best season since deciding to stick to one full-time driver for a season four years ago.
Even though LaJoie is only 29th in the points standings, he has registered six top-20 finishes in 19 races, which equals his total in 36 races a year ago. He has one top 10, an eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500.
But his average finish has been 23.5, which is an improvement of over two places from a year ago when his average finish was 25.9.
Matt DiBenedetto was St. Hilaire’s full-time driver in 2017 and 2018 and posted three top-10s in two seasons with an average finish of 27.1 and 27th.
St. Hilaire said they reached an engine agreement with one of the wealthy teams, Stewart-Haas Racing, and that has resulted in a significant upgrade.
“That old adage ‘Money buys speed’ is surely true,” said St. Hilaire, whose son, Mason, is the general manager of the team.
He noted that they aren’t getting the best Stewart-Haas engines, but the ones they are getting are much better than the engines they used to run with and make them more competitive.
“Our goal every week is to finish in the top 20,” said the 60-year-old St. Hilaire, who admitted that they can’t go head-to-head with the wealthy multi-car teams yet due to the disparity in resources.
“‘We have a $7 million budget and 18 employees. The big teams like Gibbs Racing, Hendrick and Stewart-Hass have 400-500 employees and a $25-$30 million budget.”
LaJoie made headlines in February at the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction when he gave a heartfelt letter to Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, asking to be considered to replace Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 car for the 2020-21 season.
Johnson is retiring after this season.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” St. Hilaire said. “It’s just business. Guys come along with money looking for a ride. They want to climb the ladder. So do we. And it’s a great selling point for us.”
He explained that the fact DiBenedetto has flourished since leaving them is a feather in their cap for giving him a ride and helping develop him.
DiBenedetto is currently 13th in the points standings in his first year driving for the Wood Brothers. He has five top-10 and two top-five finishes. Last year, he drove for Leavine Family Racing and was 22nd in points with seven top-10s and three top-fives.
St. Hilaire is hoping they can land more sponsorship money and take another step forward next season, although the COVID-19 pandemic will make things more difficult.
Former New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bob Bahre will be honored at Sunday’s race. Bahre, a Maine Sports Hall of Famer, died at the age of 93 last week.
“He was a great guy. He influenced a lot of people,” St. Hilaire said. “He was a big reason a lot of us got into the sport. I wish I had the smarts he had.”
“He mentored a lot of people and not just in racing,” said Fort Kent native and race car driver Austin Theriault. “He played an important part in my career. It’s sad that he is gone, but the memories and his legacy will live on.”