Matt DiBenedetto found faith in God and that’s the calming effect in keeping his emotions better than they could have been right now. See, God works in mysterious ways and DiBenedetto is waiting patiently to find out why he was passed over again for a NASCAR Cup Series seat for 2022.
DiBenedetto, was already told last year that the 2021 season would be his last in the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. Team Penske needed a place to house Austin Cindric for 2022 and beyond and with their technical alliance with the Wood Brothers, DiBenedetto’s seat was the one that they needed.
Then he got what he felt was a lifeline when rumors started surfacing that Brad Keselowski would leave his seat at Penske at the end of the season and move over to a driver/owner role with Roush Fenway Racing for 2022.
The most logical move would be to just move Cindric over to replace Keselowski. Why delay the inevitable? That in turn would leave the 21 seat back open and why not just keep DiBenedetto in it?
Instead, DiBenedetto found out at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night that he would get replaced still in the 21 ride and Harrison Burton would be the one taking his spot. That hurt DiBenedetto. Nothing against Burton or the team he says, but he had confidence that he’d be in that seat again and felt like their recent performance proved he’d be worth another shot.
Instead, he says that losing the ride “does suck” and that he’s angry and that it’s okay to feel like this.
“It’s alright to be angry. We’re all human beings and we’re all flawed and messed up. We all have our battles. Everyone does,” he said in a near 10 minute video shared by himself on his social media accounts.
“I’m super appreciative for the opportunity, appreciative that we have a good chunk of season left to kick butt and just know that I’m here to win in the Cup Series. I’m going to, through all the heartache, all the frustration, all the obstacles, all the craziness of what I told you about with our team not being where it needs to be, all this stuff, I don’t care, I’m going to overcome all of that.
“I will, and we are going to win. I know and I feel confident that we are in the best position ever finally to go out and do that, and my future is going to be full of that. We’re going to have success. I’m here to do that. I will die before I ever give up. I don’t care what obstacles are thrown at me.
“I appreciate all of you guys being in this journey with me, through it every step of the way, through every bit of the heartbreak, all of this and going through the emotional roller coaster with me, all the support you guys have given me because this has been one hell of a freaking ride.
“So, yeah, that is what it is. Why would I say that I’m upset and it sucks? Well, obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing next year.”
What makes it harder is that they finally started to turn the corner. It was a rough start to the 2021 season and he wishes that they made a crew chief change sooner now.
“Why would I have these emotions? Because I was so freaking lucky and still am to be driving the 21 car,” DiBenedetto continued. “Love it, and I want to get that 100th win for them bad. But this 21 team has also been broken for a while; tried to give the benefit of the doubt, work through it, give all your effort to it, try and make it work and make it click, and it wasn’t, and I’ve said it for a long time: Our team wasn’t clicking. That’s no disrespect to anyone, no particular person. It just wasn’t working. Weren’t executing.
“I’ll be the first to say before everybody, performance wasn’t where it needed to be. We’d have some speed and some good runs and finish second, and this and that, have speed, but it just wasn’t clicking. It’s like a relationship with your wife or your friends or family, relationship with your team. It wasn’t there; it wasn’t working.
“It took too long, and we finally shook things up. I care about people a lot, sometimes to a fault, and let me tell you … your biggest regret in life will be wasting time. Time is the one thing you can’t get back in life. That’s kind of what’s biting me right now. We wasted some time, and I’ll take some of the blame for it; it’s not just one particular person. … We let our team be broken for too long.”
On Wednesday, DiBenedetto spoke on this too saying that he was super appreciative for(Greg Erwin) and what he’s done for the Wood Brothers for years, but that the team wasn’t clicking and he felt it.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t feel like we were gonna win. We were not a winning team. The dynamic wasn’t there. We weren’t meshing. It’s all about relationships and it just wasn’t there, and then we make this change, which is so hard.
“You empathize with people. I care about people, but, at the end of the day, I have to do my job and we all worked hard, talked and made this change to have Jonathan Hassler on the box … Then it’s like, boom, we click and we’re rocking and rolling and running up front, leading laps, top 10s, contending and we’re just getting better and better, and we’re just getting started together.”
The only problem is, was the move made too late?
“Not a situation that we want to be in but that’s out of our control,” he continued. “No sense putting our energy into that. Just focus on the positives. No. 1, we’re the best we’ve ever been as a team. Our team has clicked to a level that it never has. Jonathan Hassler, since he’s taken over, our whole team has just clicked very fast. We’re working together very well. We’re executing. It’s showing. Since he’s stepped in it’s showing every week. We’re the strongest than we’ve ever been. I’m thankful for the team and for everybody for working through the entire process and the results are showing.”
He’s not wrong in that aspect. He had a top 10 car in Nashville before some bad luck. He’s had two straight top 10 finishes on the season entering Sunday’s race and feels like they’re close.
“The cool part is that we are showing that we have made good efforts to make our 21 team better and that we’re here to win, and the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “We’re now performing, running up front, leading laps. We’ve turned this whole program around.
“It’s clicking and all these things, so that does nothing but just help my situation moving forward, showing that we have the ability to go out there and contend for wins.”
Now, he doesn’t get to see it through. Eddie Wood said that they didn’t thank Matt for his services yet in their press release because he feels like they’re not done. He feels like DiBenedetto can win a race in one of the few left in the regular season and then make a deep playoff run as a result as well. The best is yet to come between the two despite being on limited time.