DiBenedetto takes 16th in Vegas, laments early season struggles | TheUnion.com
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DiBenedetto takes 16th in Vegas, laments early season struggles

Driver Matt DiBenedetto is coming off career year in 2020 in which he won the NASCAR All-Star Open, notched three top-5 finishes, 11 top-10s and earned a spot in the playoffs.

Matt DiBenedetto gets ready to get in his car during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 10, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Associated Press

Driver Matt DiBenedetto is coming off a career year in 2020 in which he won the NASCAR All-Star Open, notched three top-5 finishes, 11 top 10s and earned a spot in the playoffs.

The Nevada County native was especially strong at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last season, racing twice at the Sin City track and earning a pair of second-place finishes.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 21 Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing, returned to Las Vegas over the weekend for the Pennzoil 400 and had a fast car, but unforeseen circumstances prevented the seven-year NASCAR veteran from scoring another impressive finish. DiBenedetto started the race in 30th and ran as high as third in stage two of the race. He was in ninth with just 40 laps remaining when he pitted. As his crew serviced the car, an air gun malfunctioned before the left-front tire could be changed. DiBenedetto was sent back on track with only three new tires, and eventually finished 16th.



“… just really frustrated that circumstances have been so awful for us the first 4 races and today having a fast car and another thing out of our control happen with the air gun breaking, it just drives me crazy because our team deserves better,” DiBenedetto said through his Twitter account.

Matt DiBenedetto (21) during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Feb. 10, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Associated Press

For DiBenedetto, the 2021 season has come with plenty of frustration. A wreck early on at the Daytona 500, Feb. 14, took him out of the race and led to a 33rd place finish. A punctured tire, and later brake issues, were to blame for his 37th place finish at the Daytona Road Course race, Feb. 21. And more tire issues late in a Feb. 28 race at Homestead-Miami Raceway caused him to slip to 28th. He is currently 30th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver’s standings.



Matt DiBenedetto’s crew pushes his car to the garage during the NASCAR Cup Series road course auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 21, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Associated Press

Across DiBenedetto’s NASCAR career, he has six top-five finishes and 22 top 10s. His best overall points finish came in 2020, when he was 13th overall.

Next up for DiBenedetto is the Instacart 500 Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. The race starts at 12:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX.

SWEET FINISHES ON PODIUM IN FLORIDA

Grass Valley native Brad Sweet continued his strong start to the 2021 World of Outlaws Sprint Car season, earning a second place finish Saturday at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida.

Sweet, the two-time and defending series champion, started the race from the pole position, but it was Aaron Reutzel’s night as the rookie took the lead on the first lap and never relinquished it.

Sweet made several attempts to regain the front position, but ultimately had to settle for runner-up.

“Track position was the biggest thing tonight,” Sweet said. “The fact that he had that line up his sleeve was huge. When we got to traffic he basically had a clean track up there. My car was really good on the race track I thought we were racing on, but he found another lane, so hats off to him. We were way too tight to be up there.”

The second-place finish for Sweet followed a tough Friday evening contest in which he took 11th at Volusia Raceway in Florida.

After four races, Sweet has one victory, three top-three finishes and is currently in third-place in the season’s overall standings.

Next up for Sweet and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is a Friday race at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Mississippi. He then heads to Monroe, Louisiana, for a Saturday race at The Rev.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com.

 


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