Matt DiBenedetto surprised many with his run last weekend in the Daytona 500, including himself.
“We set the bar pretty high, didn’t we?” DiBenedetto said with a chuckle. “The bar is definitely set high as far as the fans, especially — now they’re really expecting some good things and they’re excited and so are we. We exceeded even my own expectations.
“I probably raised the bar for my expectations for the team and just knowing how good of people we have. I think I’m expecting some pretty good things, and we’re going to make the most of what we have. I think that was encouraging for everybody.”
The No. 95 Toyota from Leavine Family Racing led the most laps last weekend (49), and DiBenedetto was in contention for a strong finish as the checkered flag neared. But, like many, his hopes and day were dashed when he was the one spun to start the first big wreck inside 12 laps to go.
Cynics might consider it a fluke or just the nature of restrictor-plate racing as putting DiBenedetto in that position. But while he doesn’t promise to contend for wins every week, DiBenedetto does believe there is a “happy medium” of how his team is going to perform going forward.
“We obviously had a stellar day leading the most laps and being exceptionally fast at Daytona,” he said. “That’s hard for anybody and any team to do on a given week. Our team realistically had a lot of changes and a lot of growing to do over the offseason … I would say we will try and make the most of our equipment and continue growing as a team, but it’s hard to do that on a weekly basis.
“We’re not going to run 30th or anything. We’re going to be contending up front and make the most of our equipment learning together, growing the team and hopefully competing up front and racing top 15s all the time. That’s our goal.”
Asked if he’s riding the high of Daytona forward, DiBenedetto said he’s been focused on Atlanta. However, he can’t deny Daytona did change things.
“I just stay focused — head down, dig,” DiBenedetto said. “It (Daytona) did change a little bit of my outlook on this weekend. I knew we had good people, but just how good all of them are and how well they all work together. It probably raised my expectations a little bit.”