The Food City 500 was a career day for 24-year-old Matt DiBenedetto who finished a best of sixth in his No. 83 Cosmo Motors Toyota for BK Racing. DiBenedetto’s impressive finish at Bristol Motor Speedway showed that perseverance pays after falling on hard times in NASCAR.
DiBenedetto ran for Rookie of the Year in the Sprint Cup Series last year, just losing out to Brett Moffitt for the title. He took part in 33 of the 36 races last year where he had a best finish of 18th at Talladega.
DiBenedetto is also a former Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver. He ran seven NASCAR XFINITY Series races with Gibbs between 2009 and 2010, scoring two top-10 finishes. During that time, he also competed in the K&N Pro Series East where he racked up two wins in 2009, and a third in 2011.
Following a full-time K&N East effort in 2011 that saw him place fourth in the overall standings, DiBenedetto found himself in a position where he was just trying to survive. Between 2012 and 2014, he ran 42 XFINITY Series races with multiple teams, start and parking in more than half of them.
Last year, however, DiBenedetto found a new home in the Sprint Cup Series with BK Racing, which is owned by Ron Devine. BK Racing had been around in the Cup Series for a few years with only one top-10 finish of eighth at Talladega in 2012 with Travis Kvapil. His new ride had DiBenedetto back in a more comfortable spot of running full races, but still with a lower-tier team.
On Sunday, DiBenedetto’s determination paid off when he drove his No. 83 to a career-best finish. He ran inside the top-20 for a lot of the race before a late race caution gave crew chief Gene Nead the chance to call him in for fresh tires. DiBenedetto used his fresh tires and restarts on the outside lane to propel him to BK Racing’s best ever finish.
“A sixth-place finish for BK Racing and for all my guys, this is like a win for us,” an emotional DiBenedetto said. “I apologize for being so emotional, but this is an incredible run. I can’t thank my team enough, my crew chief Gene Nead and everyone on this team for working so hard and busting their tails for me to be able to drive this race car in the Sprint Cup Series.
“These guys, man – that’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run – I’m sorry I’m so emotional, it’s just this is like a win for us. I am so excited,” he said.
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway next where DiBenedetto hasn’t had the best luck in the past. In the two Cup races at Richmond last year, he finished 37th and 36th. He looks to carry the momentum from Bristol into the three-quarter mile short track in Virginia.