By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Wood Brothers Racing will have a new driver behind the wheel in 2020 as the team announced on Tuesday that Paul Menard will be retiring from full-time driving at the end of the season, with Matt DiBenedetto replacing him in the cockpit of the famed No. 21 Ford.
Menard, who has driven for the Wood Brothers for the last two seasons and full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2008, cited wanting to spend more time at home with his family as one of the reasons for his decision.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of my career racing in the NASCAR Cup Series and I’m so thankful for all the great memories and friendships I’ve made through this sport. But I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with my wife Jennifer and our two young children while moving forward with the next chapter of my life,” said Menard.
“I want to thank everyone at Wood Brothers Racing, along with Team Penske, and our partners at Menards, Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers and Ford. It’s been a privilege to work with them and some of the true legends of our sport, including Andy Petree, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Robert Yates, Richard Petty, Richard Childress, Roger Penske and Glen and Leonard Wood. I’m excited for what the future holds and I’m looking forward to sharing the plans for 2020 and beyond in the coming weeks.”
Over the course of his career, Menard’s lone Cup Series win came in the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with 20 top-five finishes, 69 top-10 finishes, and two poles in 461 starts. Along with his Cup Series success, Menard also has three Xfinity Series wins to his name.
Wood Brothers currently has an affiliation with Team Penske and with Menard stepping away, it paves the way for DiBenedetto to move into quality equipment next year after being notified last month that he would not be returning to his current ride at Leavine Family Racing.
The move to Wood Brothers Racing next season is just another step up the ladder for the Grass Valley, California native, moving into better equipment each time. Since first entering the Cup Series in 2015, DiBenedetto has gone from BK Racing to GoFas Racing to LFR and onto his future with the Wood Brothers.
DiBenedetto is in the midst of a career year, scoring three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes in the last 10 weeks, coming agonizingly close to winning at Bristol in mid-August.
“I am so excited about this opportunity to race for one of the most successful teams in NASCAR history beginning in 2020,” said DiBenedetto. “The No. 21 Ford is one of the most accomplished and iconic cars in our sport and it will be an honor to join Wood Brothers Racing and help carry on the team’s tradition of success in NASCAR. I want to thank Eddie and Len Wood, Kim Wood Hall, Menards, Edsel Ford and Ford Motor Company for this opportunity.”
Wood Brothers Racing currently sits at 99 Cup Series wins and has employed numerous legends behind the wheel of their No. 21 entry since first entering the sport in 1953.
“We want to thank Paul Menard for his dedication to the team over the last two seasons. We’re looking forward to a strong finish to 2019 and we wish him nothing but the best for the future,” said team President and Co-Owner Eddie Wood.
“All of us at Wood Brothers Racing are excited to welcome Matt DiBenedetto to the team beginning next season. Matt has shown a lot of promise on track and everyone has seen it in his results this season, especially over the past several months. We want to continue to build on that success together as we gear up for 2020 and the future of Wood Brothers Racing.”