In the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, the Cinderella story continues with Matt DiBenedetto as he claws his way to his fourth top 10 of the season by finishing sixth at Watkins Glen International.
In fact, those were his very words when reflecting on his career.
“I’ve fought and clawed my way to get where I am,” shared an emotional DiBenedetto with FOX Sports after his first career top-five earlier this season at Sonoma Raceway.
But there is also a time when the Cinderella story becomes the norm. The Leavine Family Racing driver has now earned four top 10 finishes over the last seven races, two top 10 starting positions in the last three races, and has accumulated 83 points over the last three races.
With just four races left before the Playoffs, the majority of the drivers advancing appears to be set. The recent surge of the No. 95 Toyota team adds a sense of the probability of mixing up the Playoffs with a win on the horizon more believable. In fact, this whole second half of the season has made them look to be Playoff competitive.
DiBenedetto knows how to stay humble while putting together these strong performances at tracks he has circled on his 2019 schedule.
“I’m nothing without my team and how good of a race car I have,” he said. “They give me good race cars, and me as a driver, and us as a team can go back to using my feet to drive, which we don’t do at some of the big tracks this year. You’re using your feet to drive.”
The second road course of the year comes after an outspoken DiBenedetto told the media that any team in the NASCAR garage would be foolish to replace him. But as silly season lurks around this time every year, eyes have been focused mostly on what would happen with the seat of the No. 95 car. He understands the pressure but doesn’t let it impact his driving.
“I’m fighting for my life,” he said. “Everybody knows. They see the headlines and the mess in the media. I hope I can stay with this team. I hope it’s for a long time.”
The thing that “everybody knows” is the rumor of Christopher Bell’s promotion. The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver has been putting on a strong run for the championship, giving him a more open door for a Cup Series ride in 2020. The question is where, so talk has already started in the garage and among fans primarily between Erik Jones and DiBenedetto as the future predecessor.
Bob Leavine, team owner of Leavine Family Racing, has stated publicly on Twitter that he intends to keep DiBenedetto in his seat. He also acknowledges that the business side of the sport can overrule his wishes.
There are still a lot of unknowns left for this year and next. But it is definitely a positive when one of the best drivers to never win a Cup championship recognizes perseverance.