Toyota Racing – Matt DiBenedetto
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
FLORENCE, S.C. (August 30, 2019) – Leavine Family Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto was made available to media at Darlington Raceway:
MATT DiBENEDETTO, No. 95 IMSA GTO Throwback Toyota, Leavine Family Racing
What might it take for your success to continue this weekend?
“I think we definitely have those tracks that we do circle off where we can be better at some than others because the ones where we are more grip limited and we have the most off-throttle time is where we as a team can excel a lot more than the others and that’s really unique to just this season with the way the rules are this year. That hasn’t been anything in the past with the lower downforce. I think here, at Darlington in particular, is one where actually – the 500-spec race tracks and the bigger race tracks have been the ones where we’ve had to improve the most at and we’ve gotten better, but you’re close to wide-open throttle all the way around a lot of those places and so it kind of limits what you can do as a driver and it’s just kind a lot about car speed, so it takes a lot of things I can do and we can do out of it. But a place like Darlington I think is really unique though because Turns 3 and 4, you’re going to have to slow down, you’re going to be pretty grip limited, the tires will fall off. Not anything like we’ve seen in the past, but I think it will be grip limited enough to where this could be one of our best 550-spec race tracks.”
How do you approach Indianapolis where that might be the last shot to get a Playoff position?
“This one’s a real important one for us. I think if I’m picking and choosing and being totally honest, if we’ve got Darlington and Indy left, I’m circling off Darlington as probably more of a strong suit because we’re going to have more off-throttle time and be a little more grip limited here, which are the things we need as a team to make it where I can stand out more and my team can stand out more with the things they do. Hopefully we can do that here and a win would be great because we have the speed at those type of race tracks. We really do. And our team has done a great job at growing and improving and everybody has seen that. I would hope to try and get it done and have a strong run this weekend or have a shot at winning here. I would be a little bit more worried about Indy probably.”
Over the final 10 races, do you just put yourself in audition mode?
“I drive the same really any race under any circumstances. At Bristol some people were like, ‘oh, did you drive different there,’ and I’m like, ‘no, it doesn’t make a difference’. When I strap in the car, I’m 100% every single lap I’m on the race track no matter what. I’ve learned that lesson and been that way a long time. I always feel like I’m auditioning every time I climb in a race car for basically my whole life. That’s nothing any different, but I want to win for this team really, really bad because it would be really special to get their first win for the team.”
Has anyone called you about rides for next year?
“I got a lot of like really nice, encouraging texts and stuff from a lot of fellow drivers and such so that was really neat and encouraging. Nothing in particular. Just keeping all options open.”
Did you talk to Dave Portnoy at Barstool Sports and did you come up with anything?
“I’ve been a really big fan of them (Barstool Sports) for a long time. I think I send like all their Instagram videos to friends on a daily basis. I’ve been a big fan of them and Dave, I’ve followed him forever and watched probably 5,000 pizza reviews. Long story short, at Bristol after the race, I saw him standing by and I was pretty, obviously everybody knows I was pretty bummed after the race, but when I saw him, I perked up and I was like hey, I’m a big fan actually of them and of him, so went and chatted with him and did the interview and people saw it live and public basically. We talked, chitchatted and he really loved the story and thought it was cool. He thought the fan support was amazing just like I did and he was like, ‘hey, we want to – we’ve been wanting to get into NASCAR more, we want to sponsor’. I was like, ‘okay’, so it happened right there live on camera, so what everybody saw, that was what it was and then he reached out to me on Twitter. I gave him my phone number, we chatted on the phone. It was quick and he’s like, ‘man, we want to sponsor your car, we love the story and we want to get more involved in the sport’ and it really got him and then me even more interested and really it’s a big credit to the fans because post-race, them screaming and giving that kind of support to us is what really made it a special story to where it got us a sponsor with the team. They’re going to sponsor Vegas and Talladega this year and that’s big for us, big for the team and for the whole sport in general because they’ve got a really crazy reach, of course.”
Do you feel like maybe Barstool Sports could take the sponsorship elsewhere with you for 2020?
“This all came together real quick. I think the goal is – especially after having the talks with Dave (Portnoy) – to grow the relationship. They loved the story. Easy fit for me because I’ve already been a huge fan of them and followed them forever, so I know everything about all that they do and love it. I think that would be the goal of talking is that they want to sponsor me and the story and I told them a little bit more about our team too, most importantly, and how they gave me the shot to do this and drive this race car this year. I wanted to, if it was possible, build the momentum and for them to help our team this year and while we had the momentum to do it. That would be the goal, to carry that with me moving forward and keep on building that relationship because it’s much beyond me. It’s big for our – I think it would be big for our whole sport.”
What are you looking for next year – a team where you have a ride or a team where you could be competitive?
“A lot of people have known I’ve been real all-in on myself and that’s the only way I can live with myself is going all-in on this journey. I think as far as criteria, I have to win at this point. I think we’ve shown as a team that we can go out there and run up front and win. I know I can win and so that would be my only criteria. I feel like at this point, I’ve got to continue climbing the ladder, however that is, and winning is priority.”
Did you feel that with Joe Gibbs Racing asking you to drive the Xfinity Series car at Road America was a sign of how you’re viewed by other organizations in the sport?
“Yeah, it meant a lot to me because they had seen the road courses this year and how fast we were on the Cup side and so it actually did mean a lot, especially with having a history with them years ago. They’re the ones that got me into NASCAR and into the sport. J.D. Gibbs is a huge impact to my whole life. For them to ask me to drive it and know that I was fast on the road courses and they had the confidence in me to go out there and be a candidate to go win was awesome. Obviously the finish stunk for sure. It just shows how much of a team sport it is because the car was so fast. I was on cruise control out in the lead and it was like one of those days where like man, if everything goes smooth, this could be an easy win, but it just shows how dependent you are on everybody around you and you lose track position and it could change the whole tone of your day. It was neat to have that confidence from them.”
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