How the Talladega Race Earned Matt DiBenedetto Another Year at Wood Brothers Racing

Published 10/10/2020, 2:13 PM EDT
Sep 27, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (1) leads driver Matt DiBenedetto (21) and the field for the restart of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


Recently, the Wood Brothers Racing team confirmed that they were re-signing Matt DiBenedetto. However, the reunion almost did not happen, but Team Penske changed their minds at the last moment.

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Up until then, there had been a lot of debate around DiBenedetto’s future in the Cup Series. Back in 2019, the Leavine Family Racing team let him go at the end of the season. Later on, Wood Brothers recruited him to succeed Paul Menard in the #21 Ford.

Oct 4, 2020; Lincoln, Alabama, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) crosses the finish line ahead of NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto (21) during the Yellawood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

However, his contract with the team only lasted for one year, with an option to keep him for 2021. In spite of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time, it still was not enough for the team. The situation then turned on its head at the last moment and he was re-signed with the outfit.

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What changed things in favor of Matt DiBenedetto?

As per Sports Business Journal‘s Adam Stern, DiBenedetto’s Talladega Superspeedway performance made the difference. Although his final race position was 21st, he crossed the finish line in second. A penalty undid his hard work.

The 29-year old led in the third overtime period. While defending from William Byron, Denny Hamlin took the opportunity to pounce and take the checkered flag. Things got worse for the driver, as he copped a penalty for forcing Byron below the double yellow line.

Initially, many pegged Austin Cindric as his replacement behind the wheel of the #21 Ford. This is largely due to the fact that Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske are partners.

Fortunately for Cindric, he can still compete in select Cup Series races for Team Penske. Other than that, he will return to full-time Xfinity Series competition. Some suggest that Cindric could be the championship favorite in 2021, owing to his success during the current season.

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Dhruv George

12013 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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