The main focus of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was the playoffs on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 6), but meanwhile, Matt DiBenedetto continued his Cinderella season at Dover International Speedway.
DiBenedetto finished seventh at The Monster Mile for his seventh top 10 of the season — all coming in the past 15 races. The seven top 10s ties what Leavine Family Racing had through its entire existence prior to this season.
“I didn’t expect to be as fast as we were today,” DiBenedetto said. “Our cars was an easy, easy top-five cars, but we could never make it up there, I’d say.”
DiBenedetto started the race in 20th and was one of the few cars who managed to move to the front.
“Mostly, it was track position,” DiBenedetto said about his climb. “Our car felt great all day. We made it better. We made adjustments that kept making it better and better, and every little bit helped.
“But honestly, dirty air is just so horrendous. You could get stuck back running 14th even though you have a top-five car. … Honestly, in a lot of situations, it’s literally not possible to pass. … So we just had to be patient and really disciplined all day, and that’s how we just slowly inched our way up all day.”
It was announced earlier in the season that DiBenedetto would lose his ride with Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car to Christopher Bell. But DiBenedetto’s performance this season caught the eye of Wood Brothers Racing, who signed him to drive the legendary No. 21 car next year, replacing the retiring Paul Menard.
Despite not being brought back by LFR, DiBenedetto wants to end his time in the No. 95 on a good note.
“It’s really rewarding, not only for me, but for the team,” DiBenedetto said. “I want it so bad for them. I’m glad to be clicking off some solid runs for the team in this last stretch of the season.
“This whole second half of the season has been really satisfying, just climbing up in the points and performing really well. And it just shows — it’s not me, it’s our whole team — it just shows how good of people we have, the depth of people we have in our organization. It’s an amazing group I have the privilege of working with, and I’ll never forget working with these guys. They’re so good and so fun.”
DiBenedetto said the tracks where the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series runs the 750-horsepower package (Martinsville Speedway, ISM Raceway) are his best shots to send Leavine out with a bang.
“Those are kind of a little in our wheelhouse, but we’ve been pretty consistent everywhere lately,” DiBenedetto said. “Our teams been doing a good job.
DiBenedetto and Leavine have six races left in their time together to score each their first career wins.