DiBenedetto looks to build off 2020 momentum, playoff run

Made playoffs for first time in career last season
Matt DiBenedetto looking to build off of last season's success
Posted at 11:42 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 11:43:58-05

(WXMI) — The Daytona 500 certainly didn't go the way 29-year-old Matt DiBenedetto would have hoped after being caught up in a 12-car crash on lap 15.

"It definitely sucks," DiBenedetto chuckled, "especially when I was about to get on the radio and tell my spotter Doug I was going to be like, 'hey man, bail me out, get me out, go to very back,' because it was getting too racey for that early in the race and sure enough that's when we get caught up in it."

DiBenedetto and the rest of the Cup Series drivers now turn their focus towards the new Daytona road course this Sunday, now one of six road courses on the newly revised schedule this season.

"It's a cool, cool schedule this year," DiBenedetto added, "there's so many awesome tracks on it and neat that we're able to be this versatile now and make these changes, which is great for the fans watching, I would be excited if I was them."

Matt DiBenedetto
Matt DiBenedetto gets ready to get in his car during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in NASCAR's top series is coming off of a career year after beating seven-time Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson for the final playoff spot.

"It's so encouraging because we did make the playoffs, we beat out Jimmie Johnson, everyone knows his incredible level of talent and how good of a team that is. That just shows the competition in the cup series and how hard it is all the way back to the playoff cut line."

He's now in a one-year deal on his contract as his good friend Austin Cindric gets set to fill the role he's currently in next season.

However, he's more confident than ever that he can prove himself and find another full-time ride for 2022.

"I have everything I could ask for driving the 21, we have speed, great equipment in our alliance with Team Penske, so it's all I need," DiBenedetto added.

Matt DiBenedetto's No. 21 Ford on pit road
Matt DiBenedetto, right, walks on pit road as the crew pushes his car to the starting grid before the first of two qualifying NASCAR auto races for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

DiBenedetto finished the 2020 season with three straight top ten finishes but has yet to win a Cup Series race in his six year career, that's something he's hoping to change.

"I really want to get the Wood family their 100th win, they're the best people on this planet," DiBenedetto said, "otherwise, goal number one this season is to make the playoffs, which I feel we're far more than capable. Then, we need to contend throughout the playoffs, hopefully down to the end."

Having last season under his belt with his Wood Brothers team, he says they can definitely catch people by surprise this season.

"We're a better team this year because we have that level of working together," he added.

The NASCAR Cup Series race on the Daytona road course can be seen on FOX 17 this Sunday at 3 PM.