LAS VEGAS, NV — Matt DiBenedetto knew on Friday that he had a good race car. DiBenedetto, was sixth and fifth respectively on single lap speeds in each practice session around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to go along with being fifth and fourth on 5 lap pace too.
Unfortunately, qualifying for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 was rained out. That marred his No.21 Ford back in dirty air. DiBenedetto, would finish 14th in Stage 1 and 17th in Stage 2. But, he stayed out of the pits in the end and found himself up front. Counter several contenders that did pit, and there DiBenedetto was in contention for a good finish on the final restart.
It paid off too.
DiBenedetto, would pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final lap to earn his best career finish on the 1.5-mile track with a runner-up to race winner Joey Logano. That ties his best career NASCAR Cup Series with the Bristol night race last August when he came home second to Denny Hamlin that night. Coincidentally enough, the two race winners in 2020 are Hamlin and Logano.
“This is all just too surreal,” said DiBenedetto after scoring his first top 20 in Vegas. “Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season. So it was the strength of this team. It’s so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing. It took so many people, Motorcraft, Quick Lane. To be driving this iconic car is so cool, Menards and Paul, I know you’re watching at home and proud and I can’t thank everyone in that whole family for this opportunity for it.
“Power under the hood is always good. I’m proud to have that Roush Yates power under the hood. This whole team, Greg Irwin, all of them, we were covered. It wasn’t pretty at the start, but, man, they did an excellent job. So happy to be working with this team, the fans. Thank you all so much. The journey has been pretty cool.”
DiBenedetto, was the odd man out with Toyota following a stellar year with Leavine Family Racing in 2019. Unfortunately for him, Toyota needed a spot to place Christopher Bell and with Joe Gibbs Racing full with four drivers, it cost DiBenedetto his seat.
Luckily, Paul Menard decided that 2019 would be his last season, as Menard hand picked DiBenedetto as his replacement. Through two weeks, DiBenedetto looks like the real deal and could have just landed his big break.