In what could have been a crowd-pleasing moment at Bristol Motor Speedway, Matt DiBenedetto and the fans were left disappointed as he came up one spot short of victory.
With the final restart coming with 113 laps to go, DiBenedetto rocketed to second place as race leader Kyle Busch slid back when he got caught up in the PJ1. From there, the No. 95 driver chased Erik Jones down and took the lead on Lap 396.
For much of the race, he had the best car on the racetrack. DiBenedetto was weaving in and out of lapped traffic in what was likely the best car he has driven in a long time.
The Grass Valley, California native was determined not to let anything get in the way of his first career Cup Series win. That is, until he caught up to the No. 6 of Ryan Newman. DiBenedetto was struggling to get around him and trying to put him a lap down while keeping on pace.
He finally managed to get around Newman but at that point, DiBenedetto’s car had begun to go away and he was suddenly not the best car on the track. It was now his affiliate teammate Denny Hamlin who had the car to beat.
Trying to be consistent, DiBenedetto was doing everything he could to keep Hamlin in his rear-view mirror. Unfortunately, Hamlin got to the left side of him and made contact with left front fender.
This eventually cost DiBenedetto the win and what might have been the most popular victory in NASCAR in quite some time.
“I don’t even know what to say, I’m so sad we didn’t win but proud of the effort,” DiBenedetto told PRN Radio. “I got tight there from the damage and trying to get by Newman. I immediately flipped the switch and got tight. This opportunity, this is what I want everyone to know, how thankful I am that I got this opportunity and work with great people like Wheels (Mike Wheeler), my crew chief.”
“I’m so thankful to everyone on this team who gave me an opportunity, all of our sponsors, Procore, Dumont Jets and Toyota for backing me this year, everyone at Leavine Family Racing. I want to try and not get emotional but it’s been a tough week and I want to stick around and I want to win. That’s all I want to do is win in the Cup Series. It’s so hard to be that close but it’s neat to race door-to-door with Denny Hamlin, someone who I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid.”
“It’s amazing, a great day but this one is going to hurt for sure.”
The second-place finish was DiBenedetto’s career-best finish of his Cup Series career.