Matt DiBenedetto was all smiles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday.
DiBenedetto was the first to turn laps around the road course in an Xfinity Series car at the legendary speedway during at test in anticipation for when the series returns on July 4. It will mark the first NASCAR race held at the road course.
"I’m pretty honored that they asked me to come do this test," DiBenedetto said. "My only regret is that this negates me from racing in the road course race here."
DiBenedetto, who will race this year in the NASCAR Cup Series for Wood Brothers Racing, tested the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
"It’s been fun," DiBenedetto said. "It’s been cool to get acclimated with the course and evaluate a couple of the different layouts – the 12 turn and 14 turn course. I’m already jealous of these Xfinity guys of just how cool the race is going to be and good of a show it’s going to put on. People know I love road racing myself."
The track has many different elements and passing zones and has already drawn some comparisons to current tracks on the schedule, according to DiBenedetto.
"Coming off the chicane exiting it I’ve made comparisons to Sonoma already," he said. "Some of the low speed stuff where you are either in first or second gear I’ve compared to Mid-Ohio. I guess you can compare it to Watkins Glen where you are flying down the front straightaway and then you have a real heavy braking zone, which is perfect."
Goodyear is also at the test to help with the tire combination for the race. The test began with the tires that were run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval before trying setups from Road America and Mid-Ohio.
Following the test NASCAR will take the data back to the R&D Center in Concord, N.C. to help determine which layout the race will be contested on. The data will also be shared with other teams to prepare for the inaugural race.
"The input that we get today will help the whole garage area," said Wayne Auton, NASCAR Xfinity Series Managing Director. "We have a GoPro camera inside of his car that the other drivers will see.
"It’s going to be one heck of a race."