Auto racing roundup: DiBenedetto opens up about future free agency
Matt DiBenedetto’s time with Wood Brothers Racing is coming to a close, and the Grass Valley native let his frustration with the situation be known in a 9-minute video clip released through his Facebook account Thursday.
The seven-year NASCAR Cup Series veteran revealed that he will once again be a free agent at the end of the season after learning Xfinity Series driver Harrison Burton will be driving the Wood Brothers No. 21 Mustang in 2022, and not him.
“It doesn’t change my faith in knowing there’s a plan for all this, but it doesn’t make it not suck, because it does suck,” DiBenedetto said in the video.
This season is DiBenedetto’s second with Wood Brothers Racing.
“As a team owner, you always want to keep an eye for the future and what’s best for your organization in hopes to set yourself up for success long term,” Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood said in a press release. “As things have progressed and changed over the last few months, we had the chance to look at what our options are and when we determined that Harrison would be available for our team, we wanted to jump at the opportunity to work with him.”
Burton, 20, is an up-and-comer in the sport who won four Xfinity Series races in 2020, and has notched 12 top-10 finishes in 19 races this season. Burton is the son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Burton.
In DiBenedetto’s video he said the No. 21 team has been “broken” for much of the season, but after some changes is in a good place now.
“It sucks because we finally got the chemistry and team where it needs to be,” he said. “I’m like ‘yes, we’ve got it, it’s clicked, it’s there, and I know it’s taken too long, but we’ve got it,’ and, boom, the performance is on track. Now, I truly feel like we’re a team that can go out and win, compete and contend up front…”
DiBenedetto’s season has been a bit of a roller coaster. Season highs came in the spring with a fifth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway April 25, followed by a fourth place finish at Kansas Speedway May 2. But there have been plenty of lows along the way. DiBenedetto has finished 20th or worse eight times this year, compared to just five top-10 finishes.
He has been more consistent of late, posting solid showings in his last three races, earning 10th on July 4 at Road America, ninth on July 11 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and 11th on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“Your biggest regret ever in life will be wasting time,” DiBenedetto said. “Time is the one thing you can’t get back in life, and you know what? That’s what is kind of biting me right now. We wasted some time and I’ll take some of the blame for it, it’s not just one particular person, I’m not putting blame on anybody. But we let our team be broken for too long.”
DiBenedetto added that while he is frustrated by the decision, he still views the Wood brothers as family.
“My ask would be, don’t beat up on the Wood brothers,” he said in the opening of the video. “They are family to me and always will be.”
It was just a season ago when DiBenedetto earned his spot among the top 16 drivers and competed in his first NASCAR Cup Series postseason. And, DiBenedetto’s popularity among NASCAR enthusiasts is undeniable as the 29-year old was added to the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race by way of the fan vote.
This season, DiBenedetto is currently in 17th in the overall points standings with four races left before the playoffs.
It’s not the first time DiBenedetto has had to contend with an uncertain future. He left Go Fas Racing in 2018 and landed with Leavine Family Racing in 2019. When there wasn’t a seat for him at Leavine after that season, he found a place with Wood Brothers Racing in 2020, replacing the retiring Paul Menard.
DiBenedetto said he is still committed to finishing the season strong and getting his first ever Cup Series win.
“There is still a lot of season left and the positives are: We do have our team on track so we can go kick ass…” he said. “And, I desperately want to get the 100th win for the Wood Brothers. … They are, and always will be, family to me, and I’m super appreciative of the opportunity and super appreciative that we have a good chunk of season left to go out there and kick butt.
“Through all the heart ache, all the frustration, and all the obstacles, all the craziness… I don’t care, I’m going to overcome all that. I will, and we are going to, win. I feel confident that we are in the best position to go out there and do that finally and my future is going to be full of that and we’re going to have success.”
Next up for DiBenedetto and the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series is the Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen International, Aug. 8.
SWEET PLACES 5TH, 9TH IN KINGS ROYAL RACES
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series held a pair of “crown jewel” races on Saturday as drivers competed in two $175,000 Kings Royal races.
Grass Valley’s Brad Sweet didn’t grab the big check in either of the feature races, but did nab a fifth and a ninth place finish, which earned him a combined $15,500 for the day’s work.
Due to a confluence of events the 37th and 38th Kings Royal races were both held Saturday at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
In the 37th Kings Royal, Sweet started fourth and finished in fifth. Kyle Larson, an Elk Grove native and Sweet’s brother-in-law, took home first place and the $175,000 check in that race.
In the 38th Kings Royal, Sweet started fourth and quickly moved to the front where he traded the lead with eventual winner Tyler Courtney. Sweet’s bid for a third career Kings Royal victory would be doomed by a cut rear tire that sent him into the pits for a replacement with about 20 laps to go. Sweet would settle for ninth.
Sweet, the Series’ reigning and two-time overall champ, remains atop the 2021 points race and leads all drivers in total wins this season with 13.
Next up for Sweet is the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup set for today at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pennsylvania.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com
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The Nevada Union Junior Miners Football and Cheer teams traveled on Saturday to Casa Roble High School in Orangevale to play the Casa Roble Junior Rams in Sacramento Youth Football League action.