By: Cole Cusumano
Photo By: Matthew T. Thacker | Nigel Kinrade Photography
FONTANA, Cali., — The feel-good story of the NASCAR Cup Series off season was Wood Brothers Racing signing 2019 breakout driver, Matt DiBenedetto, to drive the famed No. 21 car. Many people pegged the 28-year-old to be a contender this year and it appears that’s indeed the case even after just two races.
DiBenedetto finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, which tied his career-best result that he notched at Bristol Motor Speedway under a year ago. He even ran well in the Daytona 500 before being taken out by a wreck.
The driver of the No. 21 is ready to apply what he learned from the 1.5-mile track and is eager to build off his result in preparation for his hometown race at Auto Club Speedway.
“It validated the confidence I had in this team going into it; how good they are, how fast the Fords are, the support that the Wood Brothers Team has from Team Penske and all the sponsors that we have,” DiBenedetto told POPULAR SPEED. “All that stuff that I knew was great, it just validates it going out there and being fast right out of the gate.”
It appears as if the Wood Bros. Racing driver is picking up right where he left off. DiBenedetto finished top-five in first practice and top-10 in the final session in terms of overall speeds. To back that up, he ranked second amongst the competition in five-lap averages for first practice and he had the fourth-best 20 lap average in happy hour.
“I don’t have a lot of complaints, which is nice,” DiBenedetto revealed about his Mustang for Sunday. He said that throughout the two track events, the team was able to make adjustments that progressively improved the car each run. “I think we’re in the ballpark and it’s a good top-10 car.”
The California-native has not finished better than 18th in the Cup Series at his home track, but he may be able to change that on Sunday as the No. 21 has good short and long-run speed.