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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt DiBenedetto Ties Career-Best Finish with Runner-Up at Las Vegas

Last time fan favorite Matt DiBenedetto finished second, there were tears and heartbreak.

This time around, there were smiles. Lots of them.

DiBenedetto earned his second career runner-up finish in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday (Feb. 23), staying out under the final caution to gain track position and thus capitalize.

Boy, that escalated quickly.

“This one was an encouraging second place finish for sure,” DiBenedetto jokes. “So cool, just too dang surreal to be driving this thing in the first place. The legendary Motorcraft QuickLane No. 21, it just so cool to have the support of them, Menards, Ford, it took so many people and it’s so cool to be driving for the Wood Brothers.”

Making the move from Leavine Family Racing, DiBenedetto admitted his situation for 2020 is the best he’s ever been in his career. Capitalizing on that this year could vault his career to the next level. Not stepping up to the occasion could doom it.

He took a big step towards the former on Sunday.

“We’re close, second race of the season, already starting off with a second-place finish,” he said. “That’s great. Happy for Joey [Logano], those Penske cars were really fast, can’t thank them enough for their help of our team as well. We were close, made a real aggressive move there, my crew chief Greg Erwin made great calls and that’s what it took to get us up there and inch up there all day.”

Having never made the playoffs before, DiBenedetto was a trendy pre-season pick to qualify for the 16-race postseason. The confidence in his team exudes and comes from the top down.

He wasn’t all that surprised by the performance and finish at Vegas.

“I knew the team has every bit of that capability,” he said. “They’re so good, Greg leading these guys, this team is phenomenal. No doubt about that. I was a little worried about our car though. It wasn’t a picture perfect day. We had to make huge adjustments and our communication as great going from me screaming really loose, us being off to start and dialing it in little by little every pit stop. And then getting at the end where I was comfortable staying out because it had great speed and was good in the long runs. We just needed a little track position because we were stuck in the dirty air.”

Heading into Auto Club and Phoenix, the confidence is high, but the camaraderie with the team may be even higher. They’re in it together.

“That’s what makes a great team, to me. We didn’t start off great but to know we can close, make all the right adjustments, do all the right things—my pit crew can do an excellent job—all the things that tie a race together.”

NASCAR RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: LAS VEGAS