By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into next month’s 61st running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Four
Career Wins: Zero
While Matt DiBenedetto joins a growing list of NASCAR drivers taking a chance of themselves, his journey will come full circle in 2019. DiBenedetto will move from Go Fas Racing, his home since 2017, to Leavine Family Racing. The move also marks a return to Toyota Racing, and an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Veteran crew chief Mike Wheeler will lead DiBenedetto’s 2019 efforts. Wheeler most recently worked with Denny Hamlin at JGR.
DiBenedetto last competed in a Toyota in 2016 for BK Racing. His best career finish, sixth, came with BK Racing in the Spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway that season.
“I can only begin to explain how fortunate I am to be joining LFR,” said DiBenedetto. “The thought of being reunited with Toyota and the folks at TRD is just unbelievable for me and my family. This is the biggest opportunity of my life and it’s a dream come true to be a part of a team that continues to elevate their program at the highest level of NASCAR.”
In 2009 and 2010, DiBenedetto drove for JGR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, as well as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He earned two top-10 finishes in seven Xfinity Series starts. In seven K&N Pro Series starts, DiBenedetto earned two victories, four top-fives, five top-10s, and three pole positions.
From 2012 through 2014, DiBenedetto found himself driving ‘start and park’ cars for underfunded organizations. In that time span, the Grass Valley, CA native earned just four finishes inside the top-20. His best finish in that time period, 11th, came with The Motorsports Group at Road America.
“No words can describe my gratitude to everyone who believes in me,” DiBenedetto humbly said. “I’ve had to fight so hard, the old school way, to get here and that will always make me appreciate this amazing opportunity. When I got the phone call from Bob (Leavine) and Jeremy (Lange, LFR General Manager) I was speechless. My wife and I both had tears of joy and it was a very emotional moment that we will always cherish.
“I look forward to making everyone proud next year, working day and night with my team to show people what we are made of.”
Expectations for DiBenedetto in 2019 are high. With LFR assuming the role that Furniture Row Racing held appears to show that the fifth-year Premier Series driver will have the opportunity to shine. The main unknown for DiBenedetto and LFR is the new rules package.