Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy team, like all their peers in NASCAR’s Cup Series, will be in uncharted territory this weekend as the series races for the first time on the 14-turn, 3.6-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.
Like most other races in COVID-19 pandemic times, there will be no practice or qualifying prior to the start of Sunday’s 65-lap Go Bowling 235.
DiBenedetto, who will start the race from ninth place, has had some strong runs on road courses throughout his career. He said he is looking to capitalize on his road-course skills, while being mindful of his position in the Playoff standings. With four regular-season races left to run before the start of the championship-deciding Playoffs, DiBenedetto has a 57-point cushion over the cutoff line.
“I’ve always had the approach of trying to race smart, especially this weekend,” he said. “You don’t want to make any stupid mistakes, so racing smart will be very key, especially on a new race track a lot of us are unfamiliar with.”
He said that in many ways his approach to the Daytona road course race is no different than for other tracks.
“I’ve been called patiently aggressive,” he said. “I think that’s maybe a cool and good description that I like and try to live by,” he said. “I guess that’s sort of my style - be smart and be aggressive when you can when it counts and drive hard.”
DiBenedetto said he, crew chief Greg Erwin the rest of the Menards/Dutch Boy crew have learned a lot about each other despite the external challenges they’ve faced this year. He says that’s starting to pay off.
“The first part of the year we as a team were really kind of getting acclimated with each other,” he said. “All the COVID stuff that made it a little tougher because of no practice and no qualifying and all that.
“But we’ve gotten into a good rhythm. We’re working together great, so the strength of our team is definitely there.”
The Go Bowling 235 is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.