Matt DiBenedetto enters the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with no job security, yet he believes he’s about to start the best year of his career.
DiBenedetto, 29, will once again compete for the famed Wood Brothers and drive their No. 21 Ford but he already knows his contract will not be renewed beyond this season. Team Penske Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric will take over the ride in 2022.
Still, DiBenedetto’s first season with the Wood Brothers leaves him convinced he’s on the verge of something big.
“My whole career has had an expiration date. I’ve thought it was over 1,000 times, so it don’t even phase me,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m pretty mentally tough at this point.
“I haven’t even hardly thought about 2022 just because my whole focus is on 2021 and driving the No. 21 car.”
In his first season in the No. 21, DiBenedetto finished with three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes and ended a career-high 13th in the series standings after qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.
DiBenedetto ended the season with a strong four-race run of 12th, eighth, 10th and eighth. Had he started his playoffs with that consistency, he may well have finished in the top-10.
“It may sound crazy, but this is the best I feel about it because I have such a good team behind me and especially because we had all that time last year together where we were really rocking and rolling the last part of last season,” he said.
“So, going into this year even with the uncertainty you can call it about 2022, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my career going into this year even without knowing my plans for next year because this is all I can ask for is to have the seat time that we had last year together, to have the speed, have the equipment behind me, all the things that are lined up for success for this year.
“If we go out there, we win, run up front consistently, compete in the playoffs – hardcore – all the things I know that we are 100 percent capable of doing this year more than ever, the rest will take care of itself.”
DiBenedetto is still looking for his first Cup Series victory and getting it while driving for the Wood Brothers would also give the organization its 100th series win – a milestone DiBenedetto desperately would like to be the one to achieve.
“From a personal standpoint I so badly want to get the 100th win for the Wood Brothers because they are family. Anyone who knows the Woods knows when you drive for them you’re not friends, you’re family to them,” he said.
“They are family and I want it so bad for them and for the whole entire family, so that would be an amazing accomplishment there. Now that I know we are ready as a team, I feel the last bit of last year and going into this year, I feel we are 100 percent ready to win.
“We needed time and we got that now, so going into this year I think it’s our time and the goal is to win, to run up front, to compete and to compete all the way down to the end because I know we can do it.”
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