Matt DiBenedetto is our first driver in a new feature at Fan4Racing. ‘In Focus’ will put a spotlight on various NASCAR drivers, crew members, and people in the industry. We also hope fans will enjoy learning more about each person.
At Wood Brothers Racing for the 2020 season, Matt DiBenedetto has made the most of his journey to get there. So, it’s not surprising that we might expect him to make the most of his time in the No. 21 for the organization. And so far, DiBenedetto is on a roll.
With just two NASCAR Cup Series races in the books, DiBenedetto is having his best-ever start of a season. It’s clearly still too early to judge his entire season. But his results thus far give some reason for optimism. With finishes of 19th at Daytona and a second at Las Vegas, he’s in a three-way tie inside the top-ten of the series point standings. And just 25 points away from the lead.
For the first time in his career, DiBenedetto is even with Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson at this point in the season. Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner. While Johnson is a seven-time Cup Series champion. Heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend, that certainly gives DiBenedetto some confidence in that kind of company.
DiBenedetto’s career is on an upswing this year. But the many fans following him will know, how long and hard he’s worked at getting to this point.
How Racing Started
In his youth, Matt DiBenedetto’s dad Tony noticed his son was more interested in watching auto racing than baseball on television. So, he bought him a used kart to race with another member of his little league team. The young DiBenedetto went on to his first victory. And that’s where it all began.
From there, DiBenedetto would race late-models in the early version of the ARCA Series. After winning Rookie of the Year, he eventually caught the eye of Joe Gibbs Racing. He drove for them in what is now called the ARCA East Series. And by 2009, DiBenedetto was making his debut in the Nationwide Series (now Xfinity) with JGR. He made seven starts over two years with two top-ten finishes.
Meanwhile, DiBenedetto continued driving for JGR in the lower-tier East series. But after losing sponsorship in 2012, he drove part-time for a string of lower-funded organizations as a start and park operation. In 2016 DiBenedetto was again a full-time entry in the Xfinity Series for TriStar Motorsports. But over a combined six years and 69 races, his best finish was 21st.
The NASCAR Cup Series
In 2015 Matt DiBenedetto moved on to the Cup Series. He was again with several under-funded organizations including BK Racing, Go Fas Racing and then Leavine Family Racing in 2019. Each organization unfolded with more disappointments and a few moments of glory, leaving DiBenedetto looking for more.
Over the years, DiBenedetto has formed a trend of closing one door for another to open. And so it was with announcing his intention to leave Leavine Family Racing at the end of the 2019 season. And just like that, the newest door opened for DiBenedetto. With Paul Menard retiring, he was leaving the No. 21 seat open at Wood Brothers Racing.
DiBenedetto joined Wood Brothers Racing for the 2020 season. And from the start, it seems a perfect match for both sides. His second-place finish at Las Vegas will make the rest of the season fun to watch.
You never know. DiBenedetto just might earn his way into the Cup Series playoff with a victory along the way. And maybe, just maybe, sooner rather than later.