Matt DiBenedetto has only one goal remaining in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series regular season and that is to put a win on the board.
The Wood Brothers Racing driver has two shots left to make this year’s NASCAR Playoffs field – Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway and the regular-season finale the following weekend at Daytona. The two tracks are vastly different with Michigan’s big, sweeping two-mile oval coming before the 2.5-mile superspeedway at “The World Center of Racing.” But DiBenedetto is ready for the challenge.
“Michigan should be a good one,” he said. “Hopefully a decent race for us, but Daytona is its own animal. It’s always wild, especially when you see guys like Kevin Harvick in 15th place in the points. It’s just crazy how many different winners we’ve had and then you throw Daytona in the mix and there’s always an opportunity for a surprise winner.
“Obviously, it’s good for us in a sense because the last two years in a row we’ve been leading on the white flag at superspeedway races, so me and my team do a really good job and our cars are fast at them, so it’s good on our end.”
Despite their differences, DiBenedetto and the Wood Brothers team have prepped equally for both.
“I think equal focus on both of them, to be honest with you, because like I was talking about all the studying and preparation we do for Daytona, I’m kind of in the midst of we’re doing that right now for Michigan and preparing for that and talking with the team,” DiBenedetto explained. “Really, every week I think is equal focus, especially because our team is stronger now than we have been.
“I’m excited about Michigan, going there. Our Fords run good and then obviously going to a superspeedway I’d say one race at a time. If we don’t win this weekend, then we go to Daytona and prepare just like we always do and be ready and hopefully close one out since we’ve been so close on those things.”
In addition to trying to get his first Cup Series victory, which would also bring the Wood Brothers organization its 100th win, DiBenedetto is also trying to figure out his future. He will not return to the No. 21 ride in 2022 as Harrison Burton moves from the Xfinity Series to pilot the iconic car. So as has been the case for what seems like nearly his entire Cup career, DiBenedetto is left to put something together for the long-term.
But he is emphatic it is something that will not get in the way of the matter at hand, which is the remaining 12 races of this year.
“I’m always a super open book about this stuff,” he explained. “That’s just the way it is. I’ve said this a bunch to you guys. I really don’t have anything solid in the works for next year, to be honest with you. It’s still just kind of some wait-and-see and waiting for some dominoes to fall and, really, just kind of figuring it out. There are some things out of my control in regards to timing and just working as hard as I can on things that are in my control, so, I don’t know.
“Our team is rocking and rolling. It’s clicked. The whole dynamic is there and our performance, if you look at it, is significantly improved. I talk about it all the time, performance is what does all the speaking for me and for us, so I’m very fortunate to have (crew chief Jonathan) Hassler that has taken over this team and to have such an incredible entire group — our whole 21 team that is so good because going out there running good, showing that, hopefully winning one of these things which we truly have a team that is 100 percent capable of that now more than ever, so going out continuing that performance and showing what I was adamant about, showing the strength of our team throughout the remainder of the season is gonna do more speaking than anything else, and hopefully help that 2022 situation out.”