Matt DiBenedetto will have one more year in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford before being on the job hunt once again.
Wood Brothers made it official Thursday morning that DiBenedetto will return to the team in 2021. It has been a successful season for both sides, with DiBenedetto qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the first time in his career while Wood Brothers made their second appearance.
“It’s such an honor to be able to continue to drive for Wood Brothers Racing and have another year to grow with this organization,” said DiBenedetto. “I am excited to learn from our 2020 notebook, and I’m confident that with a full season under our belt and working together as a team, we will produce even better results. I also want to thank Ford Performance and Team Penske for their efforts in making this happen.
“These types of decisions take a lot of time — as we all know, there are a lot of factors in play. All three groups want to make the best decisions for everyone involved, and I’m appreciative to have the opportunity to continue to compete for such a legendary race team.”
Through 31 races, DiBenedetto has earned a single-season high eight top-10 finishes. Through his playoff appearance, DiBenedetto is guaranteed to earn a career-best finish in the point standings. He is 15th going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval.
“Matt has been able to find success this year under very difficult circumstances,” said team president and co-owner Eddie Wood. “Since he joined our team, he only had limited time working with our group due to the pandemic. While it’s been an entirely new organization, he found a way to consistently run upfront and make the playoffs. We have learned a lot together this year, and we look forward to continuing to build with Matt in 2021.”
However, DiBenedetto also knows that 2021 will be his last season with the team.
Team Penske, the alliance partner of Wood Brothers Racing, followed the DiBenedetto news by announcing that Austin Cindric will take over the No. 21 car in 2022. Next year, Cindric will remain a full-time championship competitor in the Xfinity Series while making select Cup Series starts.
“As we continue to position our team for future success, it is important to make sure Austin continues his development in the Xfinity Series with Team Penske,” said team boss Roger Penske. “Austin has made great strides in recent years, and he has become a consistent winner and a true championship contender this season. He will continue his natural progression and get some Cup Series experience in 2021. That will help him prepare for a full season in 2022 with the new Next Gen car, racing the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing.”
Cindric has five wins in the Xfinity Series this season and also won the regular-season championship. He is in a good position to advance into the Round of 8 of the playoffs after Saturday’s race at the Charlotte Roval.
“This is a big step forward in my career long-term, and I am humbled and motivated by the opportunity and the confidence that Team Penske, Ford Performance, the Wood Brothers, and all of our partners have expressed in my abilities and my development as a driver,” said Cindric. “Every race car driver wants to advance in his career, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than on a clear path with Team Penske that will eventually lead to a full-time opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“I’m really excited for this next chapter in my development to continue working towards competing and trying to win at the highest level. Another season of experience in the Xfinity Series will be beneficial, and I’m looking forward to competing in some Cup Series races in 2021 to prepare for a full season in 2022.”