Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Mustang will be carrying the colors of the title sponsor of Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
DiBenedetto and his Mustang, which also will be representing long-time backer Menards, will be making their final appearance on a racing surface – and a configuration – that has been in use since 1997. After Sunday’s race the track will be repaved, and the banking in the turns will be increased from 24 degrees to 28, making it the steepest of any intermediate track on the Cup Series circuit. The banking on the straightaways will remain at five degrees.
The width of the racing surface will be reduced from 55 feet to 52 feet on the frontstretch, 42 on the backstretch and 40 in the turns.
AMS officials say the changes are intended to make the racing closer and more competitive.
DiBenedetto, like most of his peers, is a fan of the current layout and its worn, abrasive asphalt.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the Quaker State 400,” he said. “It will be memorable since it’s the final race on the old, fun asphalt before the repave.
“We have had good speed at Atlanta, so this is one we are definitely looking forward to.”
DiBenedetto also is hoping to deliver a strong performance for his sponsors, which is a goal every week but a bit different this time with one of his sponsors in a dual role.
“It’s a big weekend with Menards and Quaker State,” he said.
DiBenedetto and the Menards/Quaker State team are coming off their best run in two months, a 10th-place finish after leading 10 laps at Road America. They are hoping to keep the good times rolling in Atlanta, which is hosting a second Cup race for the first time since 2010, when the track lost one of its two long-held race dates.
“We have really good momentum going as a team with [crew chief] Jonathan Hassler, myself and the team working really well together,” he said.
There will be no qualifying or practice before the start of Sunday’s race. DiBenedetto, who finished 11th at AMS in March, will line up 12th, a spot he and the team earned through their strong run at Road America.
The 260-lap Quaker State 400, which will have Stage breaks at Laps 80 and 160, is set to start just after 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. TV coverage will be carried by NBCSN.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!