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.