DiBenedetto second at Las Vegas as he faces an uncertain future

Matt DiBenedetto finished second Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just missing out on his first NASCAR Cup Series victory once again.

DiBenedetto found himself in a great position when a timely caution during green-flag pit stops put him at the front of the field. 

Unfortunately, he was unable to capitalize as he lost the lead to Kurt Busch on a Lap 242 restart and spent the rest of the race trying to snatch it back. But Busch had an advantage beyond being a seasoned veteran.

Restarts the key

A different gear ratio on the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro allowed busch to get a better jump on restarts as he was in first gear while DiBenedetto was bogged down in second.

“Yeah, you know, once we lost control, when we had the lead and we chose the outside and we lost control of the lead, he got a good push and it got him the lead,” said DiBenedetto. “I was like, oh, man, that was tough, because I knew the remaining restarts he had a really big advantage on us as far as our differences in gear ratios, and he knew ‑‑ Kurt is a smart guy.  He’s a veteran, and I knew he was going to play his strengths to his advantage and do the right things on the restarts to maximize his deal.

“That hurt us and it made it tough for the rest of the race.  I know my teammate Ryan Blaney tried to push me on that last one, so I appreciate that, but we had a car if it was out in clean air, we definitely could have won the thing.  I’m just proud that we had a shot at it.”

Future uncertain

The Wood Brothers Racing driver was the runner-up finisher at both events at Las Vegas this year, and has finished second three times in his career. He lost out to Denny Hamlin in a late-race duel at Bristol in 2019 while still driving for Leavine Family Racing.

Although DiBenedetto put the Wood Brothers into the playoffs for the first time since 2017, he still faces an uncertain future with no contract for 2021, yet.

I think all good runs are great, and this year has been great crazy, but we know we have a lot of strengths as a team and a lot to continue to improve on and build on.  I keep saying we’re just barely ‑‑ I feel like we’ve just barely scratched the surface, we’re just barely getting started.  I know we can win races and contend for sure.

“As far as this, to answer your question about my situation, I think 2020 has delayed a lot of things that would have been figured out and set in stone for next year for 2021 a lot sooner,” he explained. “2020 has thrown a lot of variables in, so I think there’s a lot of moving parts.  I’m kind of speculating but I’ll find out this coming week.  I think it’s just a lot of logistics.

“I feel like the Wood Brothers are an amazing family and you can tell they ooze confidence in me, and that’s such an amazing feeling, and same with Team Penske and our alliance with them.  I can feel that everyone has confidence in me and our team and knows we’re only going to continue to get much better.  So I don’t feel much on that side.  I think more just a lot of logistics and things that they’re really trying to work out to get everything hopefully set for next year because I want to drive for this team for a long time to come. I love driving for the Woods.”

DiBenedetto was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs but, statistically speaking, is having his best NASCAR Cup Series season to date with three top-fives, eight top-tens and an average finish of 15th.

Reaching Victory Lane

His goal for the remainder of the 2020 season is obvious: Break through and finally reach Victory Lane. Next week’s race at Talladega is a golden opportunity to do just that.

“Yeah, you’ve always got to work so hard and study so much for the plate races, so I’ll probably sit down with my spotter Greg Campbell this week and go over every bit of information, SMT and video, watch some previous video, all that stuff to prepare.  But it’s the best case scenario driving the No. 21 car, having the fast Fords under us to go there, and not only that, the big thing is having our Penske teammates,” DiBenedetto said as he looks ahead to Talladega.

“Brad (Keselowski), Joey (Logano) and Ryan (Blaney) are incredible plate racers and obviously our cars, the Fords are fast, and having all the Fords on the racetrack.  Great situation, and we’ll be aware of everyone else’s situations, too, but as I said before, it’s fun situation; go out there and we’re just trying to win races and have some fun and rack up points.”

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