Matt DiBenedetto used what he described as some monstrous restarts to drive his No. 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang from 20th place with 13 laps remaining to 3rd at the finish of Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
His finish, combined with the nine stage points earned earlier in the race, keeps him 12th in the Cup Series standings and continues a recent string of strong performances by the driver, crew chief and pit crew.
DiBenedetto spent much of Sunday’s race at Kentucky running among the leaders after starting 10th. He ran as high as 3rd in the first stage before ending that 80-lap run in fourth place, earning seven stage points.
He continued to run in the top 10 for much of the second stage before a caution period during a round of pit stops with six laps remaining in the stage allowed some drivers who took only two tires or none to pass him. But he rallied to finish ninth and earn two more stage points.
In the final segment of the race he again ran among the leaders until another untimely caution flag flew, occurring just after he’d brought the Menards/Quaker State Mustang to pit road and left him a lap down.
He took the wave-around to rejoin the lead lap but found himself mired in traffic just inside the top 20.
The late-race heroics from DiBenedetto and his spotter Doug Campbell allowed him to drive the Menards/Quaker State Mustang into the top 10 with just 10 laps left to run. He continued to advance until the race’s final caution flag put him in eighth place for a two-lap sprint to the finish.
When the green flag flew, DiBenedetto gave sixth-starting Cole Custer a mighty shove, which put Custer in position to challenge for the win while DiBenedetto followed through to take third place, his second top-three finish of the season, the first being a second-place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the second race of the season.
“We had a really good car,” DiBenedetto said. “I mean, we could have contended for the win.”
“It was really fast, but lost track position when things shuffled around and we had to do the wave around. Me and my spotter – I’ve got to give him a lot of credit, Doug Campbell. I told him we should win some sort of restart award – had two monstrous restarts and then pushed Cole to the win there, which kind of felt cool.”
“Good for him. Congrats, but this is a big race for us having the Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang in the Quaker State 400, so I wish we could have won it, but circumstances didn’t work out. We’ll take a strong finish and a really fast car.”
Next up for DiBenedetto and the Menards team is the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night, where DiBenedetto will have to race his way into the main event through the preliminary Open.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!