After weeks of focusing on the points standings, first as they worked to make the Cup Series Playoffs and then to advance to the Round of 12, Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy team can pretty much forget about points, at least for one night.
DiBenedetto’s only real hope to advance to the second round of the Playoffs is to win Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the final race of the first round of the Playoffs.
In DiBenedetto’s favor is that Bristol is his best track. Driving for another team last fall, he finished second to Denny Hamlin after leading 93 laps late in the race. And he won the All-Star Open there in July aboard the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Mustang.
“If there is one track to be in a must-win situation that I would choose it would definitely be Bristol,” DiBenedetto said. “I think we have a good shot at it. It is one that I am excited about and have circled off in this round…
“And I have some unfinished business, I guess, after last year as well.”
DiBenedetto said his Menards/Dutch Boy team has given him the cars he needed to make his first Playoff appearance and his team’s second, and he believes the same effort will go into the Mustang he’ll drive in Saturday night’s 500-lapper.
“All these guys on the Wood Brothers Racing team, I’m proud of them,” he said. “They’ve been working really hard… Menards, Motorcraft, everybody at Ford has been putting a lot of effort into this thing.
“Going to Bristol is obviously an exciting race and one that we feel good about and have a lot to build on.
“I think we can go there and perform.”
Eddie Wood said he’s optimistic as well going into Bristol, but he’s also looking at the big picture of his team’s season.
“We’re in a spot where we have to win to advance, but it’s pretty much been that way since the Playoffs started,” he said. “No matter how it goes Saturday night, I’m still very proud to have made the Playoffs.”
There will be no qualifying or practice prior to the start of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, which is set for just after 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on NBCSN.