In the last 11 laps of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Matt DiBenedetto passed seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson for fifth place and 2014 Champion Kevin Harvick for fourth.
When the race ended, the driver of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota was closing on third-place finisher Ryan Blaney before running out of laps. But DiBenedetto nevertheless scored the best result of his career, eclipsing the sixth he posted at Bristol in 2016.
“I’m just so lucky to be doing this,” an elated DiBenedetto said after the race. “My path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old-school, and I’m so thankful. I can’t tell you how many people took a chance on me to have this opportunity.”
One of those people was the late J.D. Gibbs, the former president of Joe Gibbs Racing who was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on Thursday night.
“It was so much fun—my home state,” DiBenedetto said of his run. “This one is for my buddy, AJ Allmendinger for helping me so much.”
DiBenedetto also had some parting words for NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, who on Sunday at Sonoma called his last race as an analyst for Fox Sports.
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community.
Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.