For Matt DiBenedetto, his NASCAR career has been all about making “a lot out of a little”.

 

The 25-year old grew up in Grass Valley, California. Living in California, DiBenedetto would constantly ride four wheelers and dirt bikes from a very young age. From the get go, DiBenedetto considers himself “pretty much wide open and out of control.” At the age of five, DiBenedetto started watching NASCAR on his own by forcing his dad to stop flipping through television channels.

 

While playing baseball, the veteran driver went to a local track and watched his teammate race on dirt. From his first experience at the track, DiBenedetto continued to bug “the heck out of my dad to let me do that.” The ironic part for DiBenedetto is that nobody in his family had a racing background. “I came to the conclusion I must be adopted,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the age of 12, the DiBenedetto family packed their bags and headed east to Hickory, North Carolina. DiBenedetto described that transition as “interesting” and a “culture shock”. 

 

“I was young so I couldn’t understand what we were doing. To me, we were winning everything out in California. I needed to pursue this to where racing is bigger. We were really naive,” said the veteran  driver.

 

Now, DiBenedetto considers North Carolina home and would not live anywhere else, even if he wasn’t racing.

 

At the age of 15, DiBenedetto started running Limited Late Models at Hickory Speedway.  While racing at Hickory, the veteran driver was running against Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), who had a development driver racing at Hickory. During that year, DiBenedetto won the championship. Winning that championship, the name “Matt DiBenedetto” began trinkling throughout the shop at JGR as someone who was “making a lot out of a little.”

 

“The word kinda got around the shop that we were doing a lot with a little, which has been the story of my career. They knew we were on a tight budget, didn’t have much to work with, winning races. It was a good way to get the word out,” said the 25-year old.

 

In 2009, at the age of 17, DiBenedetto was signed on at JGR as a developmental driver. “It was crazy. I could have cried that day. It was unexpected. I didn’t know it was coming. All of this happened really quick, it looked like a blurb,” DiBenedetto stated. During the time, the veteran driver ran in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series as well as a handful of NASCAR Xfinity Series events.

 

At Memphis Motorsports Park in 2009, DiBenedetto made his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start. “I was pretty naive. I was really excited. It was short track so it fit my background. I wasn’t too worried about it,” said DiBenedetto.

 

He started the weekend qualifying in the fourth position. DIBenedetto was running in the front for majority of the race until an incident on pit road sent him to the back of the field. Despite the incident, the 25 year old worked his way back towards the front passing drivers like Kyle Busch. The organization had a shot at winning, but was caught in the scuffle between Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. DiBenedetto finished 14th that day.  “At the end of the all, I was frustrated we didn’t win. That was my mentality. I didn’t really understand how good were in my first race,” said DiBenedetto.

 

Ultimately, the relationship ended at JGR for DiBenedetto. He went back to running K&N as well as some start and park rides in Xfinity.  During that time, the veteran driver appreciated things more than he did before. Despite the circumstances, DiBenedetto continued to make a lot out of a little.

 

“Going about it this route, the day that I win a race, I will be crying like a little girl. I won’t care if I get any criticism for it because I had to work so hard to get there. I had to regroup and hit rock bottom,” DiBenedetto stated about this route.

 

When the call came from Ron Devine of BK Racing, things began to change quickly for DiBenedetto. The veteran drivers owes the ride to JD Gibbs, who called Devine.

 

“Man, it was cool. I owe a lot of that to JD Gibbs. Although I wasn’t at JGR, JD still called Ron and told him to give me an opportunity. So, obviously that weighed in heavily. The day I got the opportunity, I didn’t know if it was for one or two races,  but it turned into a full season turning around that 83 car from missing races to making it their top running car,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In 2016, at Bristol Motor Speedway, DiBenedetto scored his career best finish of sixth. For DiBenedetto, that sixth place finish is considered a “win”. “It was cool because I felt that I validated myself and showed that I can be in a position one day winning races. I have the ability to win races. I just worked the old school way,” the veteran driver stated.

 

 

Going into 2017, DiBenedetto made the personal and professional decision to leave BK Racing for GoFAS Racing. The decision to move came with backlash from peers that he would be ruining his career. However, that is not the case for DiBenedetto. “I felt like going to GoFAS had lots of potential taking a team that ran 38th to 40th last year, I was like we can go in there and turn it around making a lot out of a little. If we do that, it would turn a lot of heads,” said DiBenedetto. Sure enough, the team has turned heads. With a small budget, good sponsors, and dedicated crew members, the team is running significantly better than 2016.

 

“We had to battle some growing pains, but to take a team and grow it way more competitively, it reflects on all of us. To me, that was the best possibility,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the beginning of the year, the crew at GoFAS was tired and exhausted putting in long hours making the cars better. For DiBenedetto, the beginning of the year thigh him how to be the cheerleader that motivates and keeps the team together, despite the long hours.

 

“At the beginning, we knew it was going to be a lot of work running a small budget and having the right people that know what needs to be done with the cars. To be honest, there were lots of guys who were very tired at the beginning of the year. It taught me a lot about keeping the group together and keep them motivated. I had to be a cheerleader for our guys because they would get tired and frustrated with so much work. It taught me a lot,” said DiBenedetto.

 

The team now feels prepared with the cars that they have in the shop. The long hours are still there, but they are more reasonable for the team. “Our guys are still working long hours, but reasonable. We are more caught up. It’s more relaxed from where we started the season,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In the first half of the season, the organization is confident and pleased with the speed and performance they have had. The organization knows where they need to run, who they should be running with, and who they should be beating. The team went through a four race stretch where things either broke or a tire was cut down, the team was encouraged where they were running before the incidents.

 

“As angry and frustrated we were at not finishing due to being rushed or overlooking some things, some smaller teams struggles, we were encouraged because we had a great car and we were running with Danica or the 95, people that have better equipment than us, we were outperforming. All it did was motivate us to take the extra time to dot out i’s and cross our t’s,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In his personal life, DiBenedetto has been married to his wife Taylor since 2015. Unlike many drivers, being married did not change his approach on racing. “It didn’t. My wife would be okay with me saying that racing comes first before everything,” said DiBenedetto.

 

As the many drivers within the NASCR garage have went to cycling, DiBenedetto is his own person by lifting weights in the gym.

 

“I like lifting weights because it is more mental than anything. I kinda have more of that build. It’s a big stress reliever. What we do for a living is really stressful,” said the 25-year old driver. “When i can go lift weights, it mentally makes me feel better and gets me through the racing struggle. It’s a way for me to be unique.”

 

For those who follow DiBenedetto on social media, they understand that DiBenedetto likes to have fun. Earlier this season, DiBenedetto made his Snapchat account public to be able to interact with the younger fan base. “Getting a reputation is an easy way for me to have fun with fans and share some of my racing life and the fun, normal side of me,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the end of the day when the racing career comes to an end, the veteran driver wants to be known in the same way as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. DiBenedetto wants to be known as someone who was fan friendly and friendliest to his fans. “Obviously, everyone can say winning races and championships, that’s a given. What I want to be know on top of that would being the nicest and cares the most about his fans,” stated the veteran driver.

 

You can follow DiBenedetto on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @mattdracing. You can follow GoFAS Racing on Twitter and Facebook @GoFasRacing32.

Two Day Shows

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series could have easily had a two day show at Daytona International Speedway.

 

All the series did on Thursday afternoon was have two practice sessions. On Thursday, over half the teams did not even make a lap in the second and final practice session for each series, both sessions ran for 55 minutes.

 

The final Cup practice saw 19 drivers make a lap while the Xfinity Series had only 16 drivers made a lap.

 

On Friday, teams arrived at the track for qualifying that began at 2:00 p.m. EDT. NASCAR could have easily had one practice session of 90 minutes on Friday morning to save teams some money during the race weekend. Teams could have spent an extra day at home and save costs on hotels and travel.

 

The sanctioning body and teams should look at ways to reduce the race weekend down to two days in an effort to save on costs.

 

OT Line

The overtime line came into effect in the Coke Zero 400 and the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. However, uproar from the line came during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250.

 

When the green flag flew in NASCAR Overtime, the field had to reach the overtime line located towards the middle of the backstretch. Before the field reached the line in the Xfinity race, they were already wrecking. By the time the caution lights were illuminated, the field had already crossed the overtime line. That caused an uproar among fans and media about the delay.

 

After an explanation from NASCAR, the delay was ultimately deemed a human error. The delay was approximately two seconds. The delay was caused from recognizing the crash, calling the caution, and illuminating the caution lights.

 

Should the overtime line be updated? NASCAR is currently looking at overtime procedures to implement in the 2018 season.

 

Little Teams That Did

 

Racing at Daytona and Talladega are always good for the underfunded teams in NASCAR. The draft and restrictor plate racing is the cause of performance for these teams.

 

In the Xfinity Series, little teams that did include but are not limited to include Dakoda Armstrong (P3), Jeb Burton (P4), David Starr (P5), Ross Chastain (P6), and Joey Gase (P10).

 

In the Cup Series, little teams that did include, but are not limited to include Michael McDowell (P4), Brendan Gaughan (P7), Corey LaJoie (P11), and Matt DiBenedetto (P13).

 

For these teams, a good finish at the track does wonders to their budgets and their future.

 

Joey Logano And Locking Bumpers

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, teams are forced by NASCAR to not be able to lock bumpers at restrictor plate events. If two teams lock bumpers, both teams will be given the black flag and penalized with a pass-through penalty.

 

According to Wayne Auton, Logano is a master at riding that fine line of bumping and locking the bumpers. That difference is so small and subtle that NASCAR has a hard time determining if it is a locking of bumpers.

 

Throughout the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, BK Racing rotated five drivers throughout car No’s 83 and 93. While David Ragan ran the full season in the No. 23, the one and only start for the No. 26 was made by Robert Richardson Jr. during the Daytona 500. Matt DiBenedetto jumped into the No. 49 during the Ford Eco Boost 400 at Homestead.
 
Driving the No. 83 Maxwell House Toyota, Michael Waltrip led one lap and finished 30th in NASCAR’s season opener. While it was the only start he would make for BK Racing, the NASCAR on FOX analyst would also go on to finish 12th in the May GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Jay Robinson’s No. 55 Peak Antifreeze & Coolant Toyota. 
 
Dubbed as ‘The Great American Race’, the ‘500’ would be the only trip on the track for Richardson Jr. in the Cup series. Unfortunately, it was not a good one for the McKinney, Texas native. He ran 135 out of 200 laps before engine issues caused the No. 26 Stalk It Toyota to be done for the day. Richardson Jr. would eventually be scored 38th in final results.
 
Dylan Lupton, Ryan Ellis and Jeffrey Earnhardt each made three starts for BK Racing. Lupton’s best finish came during the second race at Richmond, the Federated Auto Parts 400 where he finished 25th in the No. 83 EJ Wade Construction/Union Bank Trust Toyota. Along with a 37th-place run in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond and a 32nd at Indianapolis during the ‘Brickyard 400’, Ellis also filled in for DiBenedetto during the AAA Texas 500 in November and finished 38th, all of these finishes taking place in the No. 93 Science Logic Toyota. Earnhardt ran three races in the fall for BK Racing in the No. 83 ride. He started at Talladega where took home a 34th-place finish. He followed it up with a 34th at Texas and a 31stat Homestead. 
 
Ragan’s best finish of the year came during NASCAR’s second visit to Daytona International Speedway. The No. 23 Shriners Hospital for Children Toyota driver finished 16th in the 161-lap Coke Zero 400, a race that proved to be difficult for the 40-car field.
 
“We really had a car that drove well,” Ragan said after the race in a Toyota Racing transcript. “I think that we needed a little bit more speed to contend for the win but our car drove nice and on the long runs we were really good. We just needed to restart on the outside lane those last two restarts -- starting fifth and seventh we were just kind of a sitting duck on the bottom. Those guys in the second lane can get really good runs and then they can move to the third and on the bottom you’re just stuck. You don’t have anywhere to go. Unless you restart on the front row the bottom is not that good of a choice.”
 
Ragan’s other top-20 finish came at Dover in the AAA 400 Drive For Autism where he came home 17th in the Dr. Pepper Toyota. He led a total of nine laps during seven non-consecutive race weekends.
 
It was a rollercoaster year for DiBenedetto. He did not get off to the best of starts in 2016 with crashing the No. 93 Dustless Blasting Toyota during the ‘500’. He would move on to the No. 83 for the majority of the season.
 
A sixth-place finish during the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was a milestone for both the driver originally from Grass Valley, Calif. and BK Racing. “A sixth-place finish for BK Racing and for all my guys, this is like a win for us,” said an emotional DiBenedetto after the race.  “This is an incredible run. I can’t thank my team enough, my crew chief Gene Need and everyone on this team for working so hard and busting their tails for me to be able to drive this race car in the Sprint Cup Series.”
 
The next time DiBenedetto would strap into the No. 93 was the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond. Unfortunately, he would crash again and be scored 37th. DiBenedetto would go on to run this number at Talladega and Martinsville and was also scheduled for Texas but due to an incident in the XFINITY race the day before the AAA Texas 500, he sat out and Ellis filled in. He ended the NASCAR’s season at Homestead with a 27th-place run in the No. 49 NASCAR Heat Evolution Toyota.
 
The 2017 season is looking a little different for BK Racing. DiBenedetto is moving on to Go Fas Racing where he will pilot the No. 32 Ford and should continue to run consistent.
 
 "I am very excited to join Go Fas Racing for the 2017 season,” he said in a Go Fas Racing transcript a few weeks ago. “We have a great group of people that I am very excited to work with this season! I am thankful for the opportunity and I look forward to representing the team and sponsors to the best of my ability!"
 
Ragan is rejoining Front Row Motorsports and the No. 38 Ford. He made history when he earned the team’s first victory at Talladega in May of 2013 and is hoping to achieve more.
 
“It’s a nice homecoming, coming back to Front Row Motorsports,” Ragan said in a team transcript. “I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Bob Jenkins (owner), how he put together his team and grew it the right way over the years. We’ve celebrated some pretty big highlights together, and now we need to go make more.”
BK Racing announced that the team has partnered with Best Home Furnishings to sponsor Joey Gase in the No. 23 for the new season. The furniture manufacturer will sponsor Gase for the upcoming Daytona 500, the Bristol night race as well as additional events throughout 2017."
 
“I cannot put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity everyone at Best Home Furnishings and BK Racing has given me,” Gase said in a team advance. “Racing in the Daytona 500 and the Bristol night race has been a dream of mine since I can remember. It’s very exciting to share this experience with everyone at Best Home Furnishings and those who have helped me get to this point in my career.”

BK Racing has announced that Matt DiBenedetto will not race in tomorrow’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

 

DiBenedetto raced in today’s O’Riley’s Challenge in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but suffered a hard hit into the outside wall on lap 134 of the race. He entered into NASCAR's concussion protocol after not being cleared by physicians after the accident. 

 

The team did announce that Jeffrey Earnhardt would be the replacement driver for DiBenedetto. DiBenedetto qualified in the 33rd position for the AAA Texas 500. The team will have to start in the back of the field due to the driver change. 

Dibenedetto went to Twitter to explain the situation: