On the surface, a 13th-place finish doesn’t seem super sexy. Especially for a driver like Matt DiBenedetto, who has had some real incredible performances in 2019, but when you dive into his race from Sunday at Phoenix, his 13th top-15 finish of the year was actually quite impressive.
DiBenedetto started the race from the 16th position, and on the opening run of the race he pushed forward in the running order despite suffering from a tight-handling condition.
The No. 95 machine developed a vibration at lap 51, but luckily a caution would come out about 15 laps later. DiBenedetto would get his car serviced, and the vibration was officially gone.
DiBenedetto would finish Stage 1 in 15th with a car that he described as much better than how it felt on his first run.
The 28-year old would restart Stage 2 from the 13th position, but his car would fade on the long run as it would snap tight yet again. Luckily the Stage ended when it did, as DiBenedetto had a tire going down on his No. 95 Toyota.
This right-front tire worked hard out there today in Stage 2 pic.twitter.com/04DFChDzxV
— LeavineFamilyRacing (@LFR95) November 10, 2019
In the final Stage, the team would continue to try to loosen the No. 95 car up. However, as DiBenedetto continued to work his way through the field — up to 11th at one point — the tight condition continued to rear its ugly head.
After another vibration began on lap 217, another flat right front tire followed shortly after on lap 233.
DiBenedetto, luckily would get the car to pit road for service, but he did sustain damage to the front splitter as the car was dragging the ground.
As he returned to the track, DiBenedetto’s car was tighter than it had been for the majority of the day. He tried to take it easy on the right front tire, but with just a few laps left DiBenedetto told his team to be ready as the right front tire did not feel good.
Luckily, DiBenedetto was spared just before he had a third tire issue on the day as the caution would come back out on lap 303.
At the end of a very tough day, DiBenedetto was able to salvage a 13th-place finish on a day where he suffered two flat tires, damage to his splitter, and had a very ill-handling race car. All in all, not a bad day.
DiBenedetto applauded his crew’s effort over the mentally draining race on Twitter.
P13 today with 2 flat tires, damaged splitter, and mental toughness tested heavily battling the challenge of dirty air in traffic. My team did a good job being on their toes on the pit stops with the last second flat tires!
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) November 10, 2019
DiBenedetto has one race left with Leavine Family Racing, as he’ll move to Wood Brothers Racing for the 2020 season. If DiBenedetto can gain 26 more points than Chris Buescher in Homestead, he will be able to notch a top-20 in the year-end point standings.
That would be huge for DiBenedetto.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.