One lap. That’s how close Matt DiBenedetto came to his all-elusive first NASCAR Cup series win.
The Wood Brothers Racing led a race high 28 laps at Talladega Sunday. It was the first laps he’s led all season and the most he’s ever led at Talladega. He also won Stage 1 his first career Stage win.
In the final laps, DiBenedetto had about as comfortable a lead as one can have at Talladega. But a caution with four laps to go dashed his hopes. When the field got the green flag for the overtime restart, DiBenedetto was leading. However, a decision to move up a lane to block a run from Ryan Blaney opened the door for Brad Keselowski who would go on to win. DiBenedetto would finish fifth.
“Obviously, a disappointing end there,” said an obviously disappointed, but still smiling DiBenedetto when it was over. “I shouldn’t say disappointing, it was a solid day, take a top five and had a stage win, so that’s great.
“The car was really fast. All the Fords were super good. That was awesome. Our car led great. Ryan really pushed. Our Penske teammates did an excellent job helping us get that stage win, so that was huge. Big credit to them and big for our points situation, so just tough ending. I jumped up in front of Ryan and he kind of got spit out and hung out and some people were grabbing his quarter panel and such.”
Blaney finished ninth.
“I really would have liked to not see a caution at the end of that thing with Matt, me and Brad all lined up there and a bunch of Fords,” Blaney said. “It would have been nice to see where we all wound up, but the top on green-white-checkers I never think is any good because the bottom always wins out on that because the bottom lane they can’t go anywhere.”
This season is DiBenedetto’s last for the Wood Brothers, as he will cede the No. 21 Ford to Austin Cindric next season. DiBenedetto needs a win not only to give the Wood Brothers its 100th, but to show other teams he has what it takes. After coming close to winning, DiBenedetto said his perspective however is changing.
“The way I look at it is, yeah, it’s disappointing to come close so many times, not just today because this is Talladega and a lot of things happen that’s crazy, but to come close — a lot of my career has consisted of a lot of that and some heartbreaks and it’s tough,” he said. “The way that I look at it is I focus on what’s in my control and focus on the positives. I’m driving fast cars. We’re in position to win and I know that if we keep doing that, like I said, our day will definitely come.
“Pertaining to this race specifically, I’ll drive myself crazy if I just look back at it, replay exactly what happened and will never let myself live it down. We did the best job we can. Circumstances are crazy, especially with how big the runs are and all that, so it’s nothing to beat ourselves up over. We had a stage win and a good day, and I know that although my career has consisted of a lot of heartbreaks our day will come, so I don’t look at it in a negative way.”