Matt DiBenedetto is happy to be in the playoff conversation. See, prior to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, he would have dreamed to be in this position that he’s in now. Yes, he had spurts of flashes last season with Leavine Family Racing, but lets be honest, that wasn’t a legitimate playoff contending car.
Luckily, he moved to one this offseason in taking over the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. He’s been a playoff driver all season. He’s remained solidly inside of the top 16 all year long and has been looking for a day like he had on Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
DiBenedetto, was very frustrated in getting caught up in a crash not of his doing last Thursday night in Kansas. He’d finish 36th as a result. That was his third finish of 17th or worse in his last four races and he was sensing his playoff aspirations slipping away.
That’s why getting a top six in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday was just what he needed. It was his second top six in his last four starts too and third top six in the last six races overall. Other than a runner-up way back in the second race of the season back in February in Vegas, these are his best result of the entire year.
“We had some troubles and had a fast car from the start, we just had to tighten it up some,” said DiBenedetto after scoring his sixth top 10 of the season. “I was a little frustrated at times just because of how fast of a car we had and we were sort of stuck back in a little mess, had some big trouble on one pit stop and really set us back, so we were battling to try to get up where we belonged and then once we did we were pretty competitive.
“I thought we had a car that could have ran in the top two or three until that very last run we just got a little too tight on the last set of tires. We were tight and lost a little speed, so we ended up still having a solid day finishing sixth, which I’m happy about in the sense of our last two weeks were very rough as far as luck. We’ve had fast race cars, but the takeaway I take from it is we’ve really been in a good groove for the last many weeks I can remember.
“For the last sevenish weeks we’ve had cars that can run up in the top five and top 10 no problem, so I’m real encouraged about that moving forward. I think we’ll stay in a good rhythm. Other than that, not too crazy of a day. I’m glad we came out with a solid run that the team deserves when we’re obviously fighting for points.”
The momentum is shifting back in his direction as he now sits +40 in the playoff standings with only six races left in the regular season.
So long as no one behind him wins over the next six races, he’s in very good shape.