Matt DiBenedetto’s 28th-place finish hardly did justice to the way the Grass Valley, Calif., driver performed in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
After all, DiBenedetto held the top spot for a race-high 49 laps, more than doubling the 23 he had led in his previous 140 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts combined.
In his first race in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota Camry, DiBenedetto was running near the front when Paul Menard’s Ford hit him from behind and turned him into the outside wall as the cars approach Turn 3. By the time the sparks stopped flying, 21 cars had been involved in the wreck, and DiBenedetto had been eliminated from the race.
“Just one of those racing deals,” DiBenedetto said ruefully after leaving the infield care center. “I talked to Paul there, and he was just trying to get to my outside and got into my right rear. This is the first time that I’m seeing it (on replay), and he just got to my right rear and was trying to push. I was focused on trying to help my Toyota teammates. This was the best speedway event I’ve had in my life – being able to lead and do some incredible things.
“This is such a great team and I know we can show them what we’re doing here. I’m just so proud to be a part of Toyota and Procore as my sponsor – all these guys – Leavine Family Racing and Toyota, they all took a heck of a chance on me, and I’m glad we proved what we’re here to do. I’m pretty heartbroken, but appreciative to be here. Thank you so much to all the fans for all the support, just happy to be here.”