Leavine Family Racing has a new driver for the 2019 season, and his name is Matt DiBenedetto. On top of adding the California native to its roster, the organization is making a manufacturer change to join Toyota Racing.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Matt to our organization,” Bob Leavine, owner of Leavine Family Racing, said in a team release. “We feel that he’s going to be a great addition to the team with his great personality and experience on track within the series. It’s a tremendous feeling to know that we’re also able to announce our alignment with JGR and TRD for next season as well.
“Obviously, they’re both first-class organizations and proven winners, so for us to be able to align with them is a huge step for our organization. I’m excited as we continue to work ahead for 2019 thanks to getting Matt as our driver and Toyota as our manufacturer.”
DiBenedetto, 27, replaces Kasey Kahne, who announced Tuesday (Oct. 9) he would not return to LFR this season due to dehydration issues. Kahne cited he didn’t want any permanent damage to his body should he return to NASCAR’s premier division to finish out his career.
— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) October 9, 2018
Regan Smith has been driving the No. 95 entry in Kahne’s place for the last five contests. He will finish out the season with LFR as the team begins to prepare for DiBenedetto’s arrival.
As part of the move to Toyota Camrys, LFR will have an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. The technical alliance will see JGR provide chassis for the No. 95 Camry.
“I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR,” DiBenedetto said. “The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family. This is the biggest opportunity of my life and it’s a dream come true to be a part of a team that continues to elevate their program at the highest level of NASCAR.
“No words can describe my gratitude to everyone who believes in me. I’ve had to fight so hard, the old school way, to get here and that will always make me appreciate this amazing opportunity. My wife and I both had tears of joy and it was a very emotional moment that we will always cherish. I look forward to making everyone proud next year, working day and night with my team to show people what we are made of.”
DiBenedetto announced on September 7 he is departing Go Fas Racing at the end of the year, making note that he didn’t have anything signed when he made the decision. He joined the Ford organization last season, earning a best finish of seventh this July at Daytona International Speedway.
He has four career top-10s in Cup Series competition, three of which have come with Go Fas Racing.
Before DiBenedetto surfaced as Leavine Family Racing’s new driver, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez was rumored to be moving over to the No. 95 team. The rumor had Suarez joining the team with primary sponsor ARRIS joining him. But the team opted to sign DiBenedetto, who has been racing for smaller teams throughout the past four years.
He also has a past relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing. DiBenedetto’s NASCAR career began with JGR, competing with them in the K&N Pro Series East and XFINITY Series during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.