BROOKLYN, Mich -- Go Fas Racing announced today that driver Matt DiBenedetto and crew chief Gene Nead will return to the No. 32 Can-Am Fusion in 2018. DiBenedetto, along with team general manager Mason St. Hilaire, held a press conference to answer questions.
MASON ST. HILAIRE, General Manager, Go Fas Racing – “Matt said it best. I think as a small program we’re really one of the most improved. It’s fun to say that because I think it’s true. We took a big leap this winter and sat down with Matt. Matt took a big leap with our program and it’s worked out really well so far. As an organization, on behalf of my father, the owner who wasn’t able to make it here this weekend, myself and all of us at Go Fas Racing, we’re proud to announce that Matt is continuing to pilot the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Fusion in the 2018 season. He will be joined again by veteran crew chief and mentor Gene Nead. It’s an unbelievable opportunity that they wanted to rejoin our program and work together with us. These guys when working together, I relate them to a Jimmie Johnson and a Chad Knaus sort of deal. When you find that person that really understands what you want in how to drive a race car and can fine-tune it and understand it, you don’t leave those things to the side. When you find that, you jump on it and as a program we’re really excited to be able to continue to build going into 2018. We’re going to continue with all of our current sponsors and partners. We’re actively out there searching and continuing to build the program through more partnership. We’re building a solid foundation. We feel we’ve got a really good group of guys, both on the road and back at the shop. They work their butts off and it really shows when you’ve got a driver and a crew chief and an organization that wants to be better and wants to build. It’s tough. You can have 500 employees or 15, but at the end of the day when you look at it, if everybody is pushing in the same direction I’d go – I say it to our guys – toe-to-toe with the 500-employee company over everything. If you’re looking in the right direction it all works out well. So we’re really excited to have Matt join us again next year and continue to move forward.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO – No. 32 Can-Am Ford Fusion – “I thought you were bringing me up here to fire me (laughing). This is good news for me. I have a job.”
MASON ST. HILAIRE CONTINUED
WHAT HAS MATT AND GENE BROUGHT TO YOUR ORGANIZATION? “I think anybody that’s followed our program as it was Go Green Racing into Go Fas Racing, our business model in the beginning was be able to survive. We had a revolving door of drivers for a long time and it kept the doors open and it kept people working and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I got to see a lot of drivers first when it came to XFINITY racing into Cup racing, but the ultimate goal was to get one driver and one crew chief working together. When the opportunity came to have Gene and Matt come in, it’s funny, the first story we have of Gene is when he comes into our shop and he’s looking around, he’s wearing his shorts, he was just making something on a CNC machine, he comes in and gets underneath the cars, he’s looking and he’s like, ‘I wouldn’t race this one. I wouldn’t race that one. This one we need to junk,’ and I’m like, ‘This is not gonna be good to start off with that.’ But he wants to make things better and that’s what we needed as an organization. And then you get Matt in here and he can reinforce that, so with both of them coming in they just want to make it better and better. Last year, we were sitting seven spots worse in qualifying and racing on average. With just them coming in and instilling in us how much harder you have to work to be able to move up seven spots it’s a big deal. We go out there and we qualify 28th or 29th and we’re like, ‘OK. That’s decent. We probably got a little bit more.’ Last year we were 36th, so when you bring in two guys that work so well together and want to be better it elevates everybody, so it’s been great.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED – “It’s probably a little bit of a change from last year. Yesterday we were disappointed that we just barely got bumped out of the second round, but then when you look back at the improvement from last year and where we’ve come from it’s cool that those are our expectations now with a small team. It’s been fun.”
MASON ST. HILAIRE CONTINUED
WHAT SPONSORS WILL BE BACK? “Everybody has seen that we’ve been able to gain a lot of sponsorship throughout this year as well. That’s one of the bigger factors when you’re running a little bit better. I also think that Ryan, our PR rep, has done an excellent job, and so has Matt, on Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram. I mean, the social game right now is absolutely massive with the people’s return on that. They want to see it and we’ve been able to give them a solid return, so you see companies like Can-Am will be returning with us, Tom and T.J. King at King Parts, Corvette Parts.net will be returning with us. Todd over at Credible Bank loves what’s going on with how we’re doing it. It’s all about the return, so when you get companies that come on it’s not just being on the car anymore, it’s about what can we do to help them. Todd was able to finance a motorcoach the first weekend that they were on the car, so that was an exciting thing for him, so if we can continue to do that, sponsors will keep rolling in. The ones that you’ve seen so far this year have continued and we’ll have sponsor announcements as the months go on and as the winter comes in announcing who will be returning and in what fashion. We’ll continue to progress forward to building more relationships.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BUILDING CONSISTENCY WITH THE TEAM? “To say that we didn’t have growing pains we’d be lying. At the beginning of the season we had our normal struggled. You have to go to the west coast and it was all tough. We had a lot of work to do, so we had some little growing pains and had a couple little issues happen a few issues in a row, but we’ve had that speed there all year and the more we go along, the more that we’re prepared and keep bringing better race cars to the race track. Yeah, as the season has gone on we just keep coming to the race track more organized. When teams do preparation we had short notice. We started around January 4thor something like that, I think, so that’s not a lot of time. Our guys busted their tails. It was amazing to fire off at Atlanta. At Daytona we got a top 10 the first race and at Atlanta in the first round of qualifying we were like 13th and it was pretty neat to fire off with that speed, and then from there to build that consistency we just had to get a few bugs worked out, working through some of the parts we had and stuff like that. From then it’s been just more and more consistent as we go.”
HOW DID YOU COME TO NASCAR AS OPPOSED TO OTHER FORMS OF RACING? “The short version is I’m a first-generation guy. Nobody in my family knew a thing about racing race cars – nothing. My dad was big into baseball, so I chose a little different career path, obviously. When I was five years old he was flipping through the TV channels and this is literally how it happened. He passed by NASCAR and I made him go back to it and he’s like, ‘What in the hell do you want to watch that for?’ And I made him watch it every week and then it became a bonding thing for the two of us and my hero growing up was Jeff Burton in that No. 99 Exide Batteries car. That’s a long story, short. A friend that I played baseball with raced out at Cycleland Speedway, the little local dirt track that I grew up racing at, I went out there and watched. I grew up riding four-wheelers, dirt bikes and stuff like that. I was just a total gearhead from the time I was a kid, so I tell everyone I must be adopted because I don’t know where in the world I get it from. It’s not from either of my parents. Neither one of them are that way, so I’m a first-generation guy and went out there and watched and my dad asked if it was something I wanted to do and you guys all know the answer to that. That’s how it all started. My dad fixes appliances for a living. He still works.
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED – “He’s 65 and trying to retire, but I grew up with a normal background all my life. We don’t have millions of dollars, so I’ve had to work. We quit racing Late Models in ’07. It was too expensive for us. We quit. Done. Since then I’ve been on my own just pounding the pavement and doing it the old-school way. I couldn’t have lined everything up the way it’s happened perfectly if I had full control. It’s all just kind of been meant to be and through hard work and through connections, and meeting Mason and Archie and all these things you couldn’t even imagine. When I’m done I’m gonna have to write a book because it’s been that crazy to get here.”
MASON ST. HILAIRE CONTINUED – WILL YOU STAY WITH FORD IN 2018? “We plan on staying with Ford for 2018.”
IS THERE ANY HELP FROM BIG FORD TEAMS IN TERMS OF TECHNICAL HELP? “As we’ve been able to build our program we’ve worked a lot with Roush through buying pieces and parts and cars, but when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, if you want to join one of the bigger teams and be affiliated with it, it comes down to dollars and sense. We work within our budgets to be able to find if we can build it. Ford allowed us to build our own simulation program this year, which has been huge for us. Our engineer, Roy, has been able to put it together, but, as a team, internally, we work a lot within ourselves to be honest. Gene is unbelievable when it comes to knowing what these cars need to do both aerodynamically and with grip with the car, so we actually are more self-sufficient than a lot of the other teams. We do not purchase a simulation package per se or an engineering package from any large team. It is something that we would like to do in the future if the budget allows it and the right opportunity comes forward, but at this moment we solely do it ourselves.”
CAN YOU GIVE MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE SIMULATION PROGRAM? “Yeah, you get this blank program that comes in from Ford and then through measuring every piece and part that you’re going to put onto this car, and then if you’re allowed or pay for wind tunnel data you can put that in there as well, and then you build a model. You’ll get race tracks. That’s one of the things that we would, as a company, have to pay for to get actual track maps as they call them. We have some generic ones that Ford has allowed us to use to start building our program, but like anything else you’ve got to start from somewhere. We need to prove ourselves as a company and as a team that we deserve some of these things coming from Ford, and I think that they have as a company have seen what we’ve been able to do and a lot of those guys have helped us out in certain ways and we’re excited to do that. But, like anything else, we’re a building program and as things go on we look to be able to compete more competitively through engineering packages and programs like that.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED
IS THIS MOVE WHAT YOU EXPECTED OR BETTER? “I didn’t know exactly where to set my expectations. I felt like us being a very small group that we could improve and run better than I had run the past two years, taking it a notch further. I’ll be honest, you’ve been around, you’ve seen it from the start, I got some positive and negative – just mixed reviews like some criticism of saying how you’re gonna go out there and you’re gonna run last all year and this and that. All that was for all of us was just motivation to prove people wrong, honestly, because I knew that wasn’t gonna be the case. We’ve got such smart people and good people to work for. Mason and Archie are a pleasure to work. They take care of our guys and everyone respects them. You’re only as good as the people around you, so I knew coming into this year that we were bringing in the right people and it was gonna be fun. You don’t hear any of those comments anymore after having top 10s in two of the biggest races of the year and having top 15s and top 20s, and really on a consistent basis outperforming cars weekly that, for the most part, if you look at numbers, that we shouldn’t, so that’s been fun.
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED -- As far as my expectations, I think we’ve done – I set my expectations realistically and I think we’ve exceeded them. Mason will probably say the same. I think as a team we just keep growing and kind of keep on exceeding our expectations for being a small budgeted team and a family team, so it’s been very good and very pleasing.”
MASON ST. HILAIRE CONTINUED – “I have to agree with that 100 percent. If you look at the teams that we compete against and sometimes beat during an average weekend, both dollars and cents-wise and engineering-wise we shouldn’t beat them, so it’s a lot of fun to go out there and compete with those guys.”
YOU GET YOUR CHARTER BACK FROM THE WOOD BROTHERS THIS SEASON, SO IS THAT THE CHARTER YOU PLAN TO USE NEXT YEAR? “The charter deal has probably been as a business-minded person the most fun thing to tangle with since they’ve come out, to be honest. It’s confusing, but at the same time you need to figure it out, so it’s a whole lot of fun. At this moment, I can’t comment anything particularly on the charter, but we will be racing with one going into 2018.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE A CONSISTENT PROGRAM LIKE THIS? “Just having a job and a ride and stability is the best thing in the world. Not a lot of people can say, especially in my position, I can rest easy and just keep grinding and focusing on my job and know that I have a job for next season. You can focus on building the program and working on sponsors. That’s the best thing in the world. I can’t even explain how thankful I am for that, especially like you said, coming from the things I’ve had to do to claw my way to get here. I’ve had so many sleepless nights that it’s out of control to get here, so now my sleepless nights are just if we have a bad weekend or something. It’s crazy how it’s changed, but I’m just thankful to have a ride especially. In today’s world you see how much this sport is changing. Some of these guys that are not sure of their plans next season, including past champions. It’s crazy, so for me to be able to keep a ride and be able to focus on our program is awesome, and also adding to that loyalty has to go somewhere in this sport. That’s what I’m really proud of is to be a part of this team they took a chance on me, so I’m gonna put everything that I possibly have in our team and I’m out there. I’m no marketing expert, but me and Ryan try to be very creative on our social media and everything that we do to help build this team. We all together as a team, as a family, chase down leads and all work together on trying to bring in more sponsorship and dollars here, and that’s my goal, my plan. I want to bring more funding in here and keep building our team. I don’t want to go out and just chase other teams if I find some dollars and cents. Loyalty needs to mean something in this world and these guys, Mason and Archie, are the most loyal and honest people I’ve met in this sport, period. I believe in karma and good faith, so that’s my future plan and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
MATT DIBENEDETTO CONTINUED
WHAT KIND OF EXPECTATIONS DO YOU PLAN TO SET FOR THE REST OF THIS YEAR AND NEXT? “Normally as the season goes on it gets a little tougher because everyone else kind of gets faster, especially come playoff time, but we kind of keep on improving, so we actually keep getting better. It’s been nice. I’d expect to just keep on running – like top 25s are good, solid days for us. It depends on attrition and things like that, but if we can qualify up around there and racing up around there that’s what I would expect. Keep on doing the rest of this year and then during the off-season just try to work and improve our stuff. We didn’t have a lot of preparation time this year, so next year we’re gonna fire off more prepared. All of our guys are gonna be working hard over the off-season. The off-season is short, so I think we’ll be even a little better next year. It comes down to dollars and cents. My crew chief, Gene, says, ‘Money equals speed.’ We make a lot of speed for the money that we operate on. It’s cool. We make a lot out of a little from having good people and we have really good partners and, like Mason said, we’ve brought on new sponsors that you’ve seen throughout the year because we’ve performed well, we’re unique and people believe in our story. That’s a big part of it. We keep bringing on new partners. That helps us. That’s a part of why we’ve improved throughout the season. That and being more prepared, so it all kind of ties in together.”