With His Career On The Line, Matt DiBenedetto Delivers At Bristolby Hunter Thomas August 18, 2019 0 comments
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Earlier in the week, Matt DiBenedetto was told that he wouldn’t return to Leavine Family Racing in 2020, but by the end of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he was fighting for a win.
DiBenedetto began competing for the underfunded team that’s based in Concord, North Carolina this season after two years at Go FAS Racing. He kicked off the 2019 season by leading 49 laps in the Daytona 500, a huge accomplishment; however, his performance at Bristol on Saturday certainly upped the ante.
He opened the weekend as the fourth fastest in first practice, and he ended up the fastest in final practice. After being fast all weekend, DiBenedetto qualified seventh in his No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota on Friday evening.
Throughout the race on Saturday night, DiBenedetto led a race high of 93 laps, the most he had ever led in a single Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. As the laps ticked away in the final stage, Hamlin battled his way through lapped traffic, stalking DiBenedetto. Hamlin maneuvered through the traffic quite easily, but DiBenedetto got caught up when he reached Ryan Newman. The two made contact, and DiBenedetto’s left front suffered damaged. Following the contact, DiBenedetto’s car got tight, and Hamlin was able to catch him.
“I don’t know,” DiBenedetto said. “So much. I wanted to win so bad for these guys, for this team, for them giving me this opportunity. I’m just thankful that they gave me this opportunity, Toyota, Procore, Dumont Jets. I’m so thankful. But, man, I’m sad. We got tight after the deal with Newman when he came up into us. All of a sudden it got really tight after that.”
Hamlin completed the race-winning move with just 12 laps to go, adding to his already impressive performance this season. The win marked Hamlin’s fourth of the season and his sixth consecutive top-five finish. DiBenedetto was forced to finish runner-up, his best finish ever in the series.
“Congrats to Denny,” DiBenedetto said. “He raced hard. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid. To be racing door‑to‑door with him at Bristol, in front of a great group of fans…
“I’ll try not to get emotional, but it’s been a tough week. I just want to stick around and keep doing this for a long time to come. I love it. I love the opportunity. I’m not done yet.”
When DiBenedetto appeared on the big screen for his post-race interview, the crowd erupted in claps and cheers. Nearly every fan except for Hamlin’s were thrilled to see DiBenedetto have a shot at the win. Social media mentioned that he didn’t win the race, but he won the hearts of the fans. DiBenedetto will now head to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 wondering what could’ve been, but despite the loss, he’s very confident that he will land a ride next season.
“Something will come open,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s going to happen. I’m here to win. Something’s going to come open. I’m proud of these guys. Thankful for my wife and fans for sticking with me. It’s been a tough journey, a hard week. Cool for this team.”
The Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 1.