Career-best Cup Series finish for a grateful DiBenedetto

Image by Thacker/LAT

Career-best Cup Series finish for a grateful DiBenedetto

NASCAR

Career-best Cup Series finish for a grateful DiBenedetto

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Matt DiBenedetto earned a career-best finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, and thanked everyone who has been involved in his career along the way.

DiBenedetto finished fourth in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, but was the third-highest-placed Toyota driver. It was the first time DiBenedetto has finished inside the top five in a Cup Series race, with his previous best result being sixth at Bristol in 2016 when he drove for BK Racing.

Fourth was a career-best Cup Series finish for DiBenedetto. Image by LaBounty/LAT

“This is a team effort,” said DiBenedetto. “I am just so lucky to be doing this. I know I say it every time I get interviewed, but my path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old school, and I’m so thankful.”

The 27-year-old joined Leavine Family Racing (an alliance team of Joe Gibbs Racing) this season, and said he’s been desperate for a finish like this one — especially as he’s felt the results have not matched how well he and crew chief Mike Wheeler have performed, collecting six top-20 finishes.

Sunday afternoon, Wheeler played the long game instead of looking for stage points. The No. 95 LFR Toyota was pitted before both Stage 1 and Stage 2 ended. DiBenedetto then pitted for the final time with 25 laps to go and picked off a few more spots.

DiBenedetto now has five career top-10 finishes in the Cup Series.

“I can’t tell you how many people took a chance on me to let me have this opportunity,” continued DiBenedetto, who was driving a Darrell Waltrip tribute paint scheme. “My sponsor Procore, TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing, Dumont Jets, Bob, Sharon Leavine and Michael. My crew chief Wheels — he was crew chief for Denny [Hamlin] for the past few years. All those people had to say yes and approve me getting in this car and take the chance on me. I don’t know how to explain how thankful I am.

“It was so much fun,” DiBenedetto added. “My home state. My wife Taylor couldn’t be here — Babe, I love you so much. Thank you for supporting me through the hard times.

“And this one is for my buddy AJ Allmendinger, for helping me so much.

“And DW, this one’s for you brother. I’m glad we got you a good finish. You’ve done so much for me; you’re the best.”

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