Matt DiBenedetto feels like "I'm always fighting for my life"
Sunday’s race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway at times appeared a reflection of Matt DiBenedetto’s NASCAR career – constantly in flux.
Just in the three two-lap overtimes that ended the race, DiBenedetto went into being in position to win his first Cup Series race, losing it in a photo finish and then relegated to a 21st-place finish after receiving a penalty.
And now in early October, he still doesn’t know whether he will return next season to his Wood Brothers No. 21 ride, with the team already past an initial deadline it had to pick up an option year on his return.
“It’s just a crazy finish. I haven’t been able to really process it. I just really want to get this thing in Victory Lane,” DiBenedetto said. “I feel like this is the same story a lot of times, just heartbreak.
“My wife and I have had a stressful week again just with the uncertainty – always fighting for my life – but I’m so appreciative of this team. The Wood Brothers, I want this 100th win for the Woods so bad.”
When the final caution of the race came out in double OT, DiBenedetto was scored the leader but believed he may be in danger of running out of fuel.
He restarted the third overtime as the lead but during the final lap, he came down the track on William Byron and shoved him below the yellow line.
As the field exited Turn 4 toward the finish line, DiBenedetto ended up racing three-wide with Denny Hamlin and Ty Dillon for the win.
Hamlin nipped DiBenedetto at the finish for his seventh victory of the 2020 season but DiBenedetto’s finish was wiped out when NASCAR penalized him for shoving Byron below the yellow line earlier during the final lap.
DiBenedetto described driving the final lap as “pure desperation.”
“It was actually tough to see. My windshield was filthy from all the speedy dry. I was having trouble seeing to block. I was blocking everyone’s lane,” he said. “I mean, that was pure desperation, but that’s how I drive every race. Every time I step foot in a race car.
“I’m appreciative for the challenges I’ve faced. That’s what it teaches you when you have those shots. I just want it so bad for my team – (crew chief) Greg Erwin and all these guys.
“Wild finish. That’s Talladega.”
DiBenedetto said there is nothing else he can do than “pray” in hopes of remaining with the Wood Brothers for a second consecutive season in 2021.
He had a solid year in the No. 21, advancing to the playoffs but was eliminated after the first round and is still looking for his first series win.
“I’ve just been so close. It’s a dream come true and there’s a lot of people involved that go into the decision-making and I just pray and pray I get to do it. I’m lucky that I got to drive this year racing for wins,” he said.
“(Against) Denny Hamlin a couple times now. He did a great job. He’s just a tremendous racer. These are tough to swallow.”
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