Matt DiBenedetto heads into his second season with Wood Brothers Racing looking to carry over the momentum from the second half of 2020.
DiBenedetto finished last season strong with three consecutive top 10s as he visited tracks with the No. 21 team for the second time.
"We were just getting in our groove," DiBenedetto said. "I was like, man I don’t want the season over yet, we just got started. So, that’s the cool part going into this year is now we have all those notes together, finally. We really began to click. So, starting off this year I think my prediction is we’re going to be significantly stronger than last year."
This year will mark a one-year extension for DiBenedetto with Austin Cindric set to take over the ride in 2022.
"You know my situation I’ve had to overcome a lot and it’s made me who I am today and I’ve had to push really hard to get to where I am," DiBenedetto said. "Just makes you appreciate for the opportunities and that’s all I need and all I wanted was the opportunity to be able to drive the 21 car for another year, especially since we had just gotten in our groove and obviously all the variables that were thrown at us. I’m just happy and excited and lucky to be able to drive the 21 car for another year."
See Also: Wood Brothers 2021 team preview
Along with another trip to the playoffs, DiBenedetto has his sights set on a first career win, which would mark the 100th for the Wood Brothers. Last year, he came close on multiple occasions with two runner-up finishes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. DiBenedetto was also leading on the final lap in the fall at Talladega Superspeedway before crossing the line in second and dropping to 21st in the final rundown after a penalty.
"I really, really want to get that 100th win for the Wood Brothers and driving for them is just an honor in itself," DiBenedetto said. "Having this kind of team behind me and the equipment behind me that alone gives me personally the opportunity to go and really continue to establish myself."
After the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated practice and qualifying (except Coca-Cola 600) last year when the sport returned to racing on May 17, this year will see both return for eight races. Five of the events will be at new venues or with the dirt as the racing surface at Bristol Motor Speedway. Three of them will be new road courses – Circuit of The Americas, Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – on the schedule, an area that DiBenedetto felt was their weakness in 2020.
"I loved seeing the schedule," DiBenedetto said. "I was really pumped. I love road courses even though we were missing a little something in our program there. We have a great team behind us. So, will be working on that hard. But on the schedule, there were a lot of things obviously the new tracks going to COTA, Road America places that I love and are really neat. I’ve never been to COTA, but Road America is one of my favorite road courses I ever been to.
"It will be good to get a little practice at places like COTA and Road America."
Another thing that has DiBenedetto excited for is the adjustment to the rules package for Darlington Raceway, which will be the same for the Cup Series debut at Nashville Superspeedway. Darlington goes from the 550-horsepower package to 750 with low-downforce.
"Making it a low downforce race with the high horsepower Nashville is going to be really cool," DiBenedetto said. "That’s going to make the racing even better for that particular racetrack and then Darlington going back to low downforce, high horsepower I was like, oh yeah. So, there are so many things that I was just like a kid in a candy store when I saw the schedule and all the announcements."