Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Ford EcoBoost 400
TRACK: Homestead-Miami Speedway
DRIVER: Matt DiBenedetto
CAR: No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota Camry
NASCAR traveled to South Florida for the 2019 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to crown this year’s Champion. Teams entered the weekend unsure of what the season’s rule package would produce at the track since Homestead is unlike any other track on the circuit. Two practice sessions were scheduled for Friday afternoon, but rain showers in the area washed out on-track activities for the series. NASCAR decided to cancel Saturday’s qualifying session and set the starting line-up per the rulebook, and instead of qualifying, teams were allotted a 50-minute practice that afternoon in order to shake cars down before the race. Matt DiBenedetto started Sunday’s last race of the year from 21st with his No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Camry and fought a tight-handling machine for the majority of Sunday’s event. The team worked on adjustments throughout the race as track conditions changed once the sun went down, but in the end, DiBenedetto ended the night in 20th.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 took the green flag at 3:31 p.m. EST as the field roared to life to begin Stage 1 of the 267-lap event. After starting from 21st, DiBenedetto told crew chief Mike Wheeler during his opening 10-lap run that the No. 95 Camry was “just too tight.” By lap 34, DiBenedetto went on to say “I’d take a big chunk of wedge out of it” as teams began to start their first round of green-flag pit stops. Wheeler brought his driver in for four tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments on lap 36.
Despite the round of adjustments, DiBenedetto radioed into the team shortly after the stop that his Toyota Express Maintenance Camry was still tight and that the adjustments “didn’t put much of a dent into the tight problem.” The team knew that they were going to need to take a bigger swing at their next round of adjustments, and when Stage 1 ended following lap 80, DiBenedetto reported how his car was “plowing tight.”
With only 13 cars on the lead lap to end the stage, Wheeler called for another four-tire stop with wedge and air pressure adjustments as the team worked to loosen up their No. 95 Camry. The race returned to green to begin Stage 2 at lap 87 with DiBenedetto in 23rd at the time. Working his way up to 20th over the next run, another round of green-flag pit stops began to cycle around lap 117 as DiBenedetto reported that his No. 95 was still too tight. The team hit pit road for service on lap 123 for more wedge and air pressure changes to their Toyota Express Maintenance Camry.
Stage 2 ended following lap 160 with DiBenedetto scored in 23rd as he told the team that his Camry was “still a little too tight, but if we free it up a bit more, it should be fine.” The race returned to green to begin Stage 3 and lap 167 with 100 laps remaining in the race. DiBenedetto continued to fight handling as he told the team on lap 191 “It’s now just too loose on throttle and the right-rear is out of the track.” One more round of green-flag stops started to cycle at lap 207 and DiBenedetto came down pit road on lap 213 for a four-tire stop with adjustments. In the end, the No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Camry crossed the line in 20th.
Kyle Busch won Sunday’s race while also claiming the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship in the process. Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Martin Truex, Jr. and Erik Jones finished second and third respectively, while Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five finishers. DiBenedetto finished 20th with his No. 95 Camry as the team ended the 2019 season ranked 22nd in the point standings after having earned seven top-10’s and three top-five finishes together.
2019 No. 95 Season Summary: