By: Mitchell Breuer
After a rough start to the season, Matt DiBenedetto is slowly climbing out back up the standings.
The driver of the No. 21, who saw three straight results of 28th or worse to start the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, is now on a roll with six finishes of 16th or better, with his best run of the year coming this past Sunday at Richmond Raceway where he placed ninth.
As a result, DiBenedetto has climbed from 38th in the points standings up to 18th, only 39 points outside of the playoffs.
Now, it may be early to judge his current position, as he has plenty of time to catch up during the regular season and even grab a win to lock himself in.
That is not how DiBenedetto thinks though, telling News From The Pits the standings are the first thing he looks at when he climbs out of the car, even at this point in the season.
“I was excited to look at it after Richmond, we collected stage points and had a top-10 finish and we have been clipping off some decent finishes,” DiBenedetto said. “Still not reflective of our strength. We have not had everything go smoothly, but yeah, every week and every race matters so much. I pay attention to it pretty hardcore every week. That is the goal of the season, to make the playoffs. That is everything.”
The recent rebound is not the only thing encouraging him, though. DiBenedetto said what has really got him excited is the fact he thinks his team has not had their best races.
“The encouraging part is that we are climbing up there and I still feel like we haven’t had some of the smooth races,” DiBenedetto said. “We have still had a lot of hurdles and battles to overcome. Martinsville, another example. We ran that race with no sway bar and somehow fought back to 12th. We are doing this with a lot of adversity thrown at us. If we could just have a smooth run of races and do what we know we can do. Our strength of our team shows that, and I think we can climb up there even quicker.”
While the gap to the cutoff has shrunk for DiBenedetto, he is focused on one of his goals for the season and, that is winning, believing it may be a necessity to make the playoffs with the number of different winners so far this year.
With the run of momentum he is on, it may be the perfect time to head back of his best tracks, Talladega Superspeedway, where in the last race there, DiBenedetto led late and nearly came home with his first career win.