Matt DiBenedetto 'flexes his muscles' with another NASCAR Cup top-507/22/2019
Just when it appeared as if Matt DiBenedetto and Leavine Family Racing had peaked for the summer, the current No. 95 team found another figurative gear on Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
‘Guido’ finished fifth in the Foxwood Resorts and Casino 301, notching his second top-five of the season, and third finish of eighth or better since the calendar turned to June.
DiBenedetto entered the season to much fanfare, having replaced the retiring Kasey Kahne during the off-season and being paired with ex-Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Mike Wheeler.
The season has seen much higher ceilings than it had previously with Kahne but also much lower floors. But there has been evidence all along that the program was stronger in its first season with Toyota Racing Development than it had been with minimal Chevrolet support.
LFR made a statement on the opening week of the season by contending for the win in the Daytona 500, but that was to be expected to a certain degree with some Gibbs support.
But that was Daytona, the great equalizer, and races like Sonoma and Sunday meant a lot more to its new driver.
“These (results) are so satisfying because we didn’t luck into it,” DeBenedetto said. “We qualified up there and raced up there all day. It shows how good my guys are because we basically missed all of final practice. ‘Wheels’ and everyone just dialed me in. Runs like this and Sonoma show that we’re for real. You don’t back into those, and we belong there when we do everything right.”
“So, it’s especially rewarding that it’s more than just Daytona because when it’s tracks where you’re off the throttle and sliding around, the things that race car drivers take pride in, that means more. We’re not doing a lot of those things right now, so I felt like today was us flexing our muscles a little bit.”
DiBenedetto qualified seventh and raced inside the top-10 for much of the afternoon, but it was a two-tire pit stop late that gave the driver his track position. As is often the case with this package, clean air was extremely valuable, and ‘Guido’ never gave it up.
“Track position is so important and it changes the way we approach our entire race,” DiBenedetto said. “Wheels made the call for two tires at the end. That got us track position and we had a good car. We faced aero tight but it would have been way worse if we were further back, that put a lot of pressure on my pit crew and they executed. This just means a lot to us.”
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