Matt DiBenedetto has certainly had his share of ups and downs in his NASCAR career. The fan favorite driver bounced around several teams before landing a home in the famous No. 21 Ford with Wood Brothers Racing in 2020.
Going into 2021, DiBenedetto knew very well it would probably be his final year with the team. The plan for awhile had been to put Austin Cindric in the car after this season. That had been the plan for this season, but DiBenedetto won a reprieve when Team Penske, which shares a technical alliance with the Wood Brothers, delayed Cindric’s move up into the Cup series from the Xfinity ranks.
As this season has progressed however, rumblings were heard at Penske that Brad Keselowski would be leaving the team to become co-owner at Roush-Fenway Racing. Under that scenario, Cindric would move to the No. 2 Ford, and DiBenedetto may just be able to stay a bit longer with the Wood Brothers.
Part of that equation came true Thursday, the other half didn’t.
Team Penske announced Thursday that indeed Keselowski would be leaving the team at the end of 2021, and that Cindric would be taking over the No. 2. Shortly after that the Wood Brothers announced that Harrison Burton, currently driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity series, would take over the No. 21 next season.
DiBenedetto took to social media after the announcements saying he was told Wednesday that Burton would take over the seat starting next season.
“Obviously, that leaves me on the outs,” he said.
He told his fans not to beat up on the Wood Brothers, “they are family to me, always will be,” he said.
DiBenedetto said that after he was told he tried to remain calm, told himself that he’d been through this before.
“But you know what,” he said. “I really didn’t sleep last night. And I thought about it, woke up this morning and you know it’s okay to have human emotion and I’m not going to lie to you, it’s okay to be pissed off, angry, and bitter, all the above. It just is what it is we’re humans we’re not perfect …
“You know it doesn’t make it not suck, because it does suck.”
He said the No. 21 team has been broken for a while, and while not blaming anyone in particular, said a shake- up was needed. That shakeup came in June when crew chief Greg Erwin was replaced after the Sonoma race with Team Penske engineer Jonathan Hassle.
Since then, the team has shown improvement.
“But guess what it’s too late,” DiBenedetto said, adding. “Because we finally got the team and the chemistry where it needs to be and I’m like ‘yes, it’s clicked, it’s where it needs to be’
He said he’s not angry at anyone, but “It doesn’t make the situation not suck.”
“I’m just expressing my frustration; I’m just saying it the way it is,” he added. “I’m getting the shit end of the deal for it.”
While frustrated, DiBenedetto said there is still a lot of season left and with his and team’s performance improving he has a chance to leave the team on a high note.
“We’ll figure it out, I do feel I’ll land on my feet… and it’s going to work out; it’ll work out greater than ever. I know I’m going to win in the Cup series.”
He’s faced adversity before and will now be facing it again as he looks for a new home for next season as he tries to get his first Cup win and the 100th for the Wood Brothers.
“I’m going to overcome all that, and we are going to win,” he said. “I know and I am confident that we are in the best position finally to go out there and do that, my future is going to be full of that and I will die before I ever give up.”