By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto shined once again as he scored a top-10 finish at Watkins Glen International.
The driver of the No. 95 Procore Toyota Camry broke into the top-10 on the final restart of the Go Bowling at the Glen on lap 66. DiBenedetto picked off several positions on the chaotic restart. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver passed Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski as the field jockeyed for position.
DiBenedetto then battled Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Blaney for position. Over the final 25 laps, the Grass Valley, Calif. native passed Larson and Harvick. In the closing laps, DiBenedetto hounded Blaney for fifth to no avail. When the checkered flag waved, the Toyota Racing driver crossed the line in sixth.
“Track position was big and we got messed up in our qualifying run by a couple guys, but it wasn’t their fault,” DiBenedetto explained. “So that set us back and we just had to diligently all race long, inch our way forward little by little. It was cool and it’s always so satisfying on these road courses for us to inch our way forward and pass some guys.”
Unlike previous Watkins Glen races, not only was strategy king, but track position was as well. The 750-horsepower package made passing a premium throughout the weekend. DiBenedetto started behind the ‘eight-ball,’ mired mid-pack in 20th.
The unfortunate starting position was a result of several different issues in group qualifying. A yellow for Erik Jones in the session, as well as drivers on different agendas left the 28-year-old out of position.
“I wish we could have started a little further forward,” DiBenedetto admitted. “I know we could have run a little bit better, but that’s fine. It’s fun to get so much support from all our team, Toyota, JGR and Procore. I just hope I can be a part of this for a long time to come.”
The sixth-place finish is the fourth top-10 for DiBenedetto this season. He has now matched his career top-10 total in 2019 with eight career top-10 finishes. DiBenedetto also matched the mark for most top-10s earned for LFR by a single driver, a mark set by Michael McDowell.
The top-10 moved DiBenedetto up from 24th to 23rd in the championship points standings. He is 471-points behind points leader Kyle Busch and 164-points behind the cutoff for the playoffs, held by Jimmie Johnson.
With four races until the start of the playoffs, only a win can guarantee DiBenedetto a playoff berth.