Matt DiBenedetto is racing into the unknown. Last month the 30-year-old driver confirmed he would not be returning to Wood Brothers and the No. 21 car in 2022. At the time, Matty D indicated he was not interested in racing in anything other than the NASCAR Cup Series. Something has changed.
Matt DiBenedetto out at Wood Brothers in 2022
Matt DiBenedetto has competed full-time on the NASCAR Cup Series since 2015. It wasn’t until the 2020 season, his first with the Wood Brothers, that DiBenedetto found himself in equipment truly capable of winning.
All of last season and 23 races into the 2021 schedule, and DiBenedetto has 16 top-10 finishes to his credit. Those are decent numbers. However, the most important number is zero. That’s his number of wins.
Last month when he learned that Harrison Burton would be replacing him in the No. 21 car in 2022, the affable DiBenedetto didn’t sugarcoat his feelings
“I’m going to be super honest. I’m not going to try and hide how I feel and what I feel,” DiBenedetto said in a video on Facebook. “You guys know what you see is what you get. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Found out yesterday. When I found out, I tried to be like OK, been through this before. How do I handle this? I know God has a plan for me. There’s a greater plan. …
“But you know what? I didn’t really sleep last night, and I thought about it, and it’s OK to have human emotion, and I’m not going to lie to you; it’s OK to be pissed off, angry and bitter, and all of the above. It just is what it is. We’re humans. We’re not perfect.”
Matt DiBenedetto open to racing Xfinity Series
With his run at Wood Brothers over and limited options in the Cup Series, DiBenedetto still indicated he had no interest in driving in a lower level of NASCAR like the Trucks or Xfinity Series.
According to Davey Segal of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, DiBenedetto has reversed course on that original position.
“@mattdracing says he ‘will entertain anything’ for next year, including the Xfinity Series,” Segal tweeted. “Reiterated his focus is all on finishing the last 14 races out for @woodbrothers21 on a great note. He had previously mentioned he would only want to stay in Cup, but clarified.”
Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus suggested dropping to lower NASCAR series
If DiBenedetto doesn’t receive any appealing Cup options and decides to race in the Xfinity Series next season, it will be exactly what Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus recommended last month during an episode of NASCAR’s Backseat Drivers.
“I love Matty D. He’s a nice guy, but the problem that Matt has is this is professional sports. This isn’t intramural football,” Letarte said. “And I’ll be the cold guy that says it that winners get hired. And he’s had a chance to win a couple of races and he’s yet to come through… It’s tough. He doesn’t have a lot of sponsors behind him. I can’t think of a brand that’s just backing Matty D. I’m sure some seats will open up in the garage area, but I don’t see it being a seat near as good as the 21 car.”
Letarte suggested DiBenedetto take an approach similar to Justin Allgaier or John Hunter Nemechek, who both drove in the Cup Series before dropping down and competing with a lower series. Knaus, who won seven Cup titles as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief, hadn’t considered Letarte’s idea of dropping down but agreed it’s a reasonable option.
“Kurt Busch did the exact same thing,” Knaus pointed out. “Sometimes, you just have to take a step back to take a step forward. But that No. 21 car for him was a really good opportunity. Unfortunately for Matt, he just didn’t perform at the level that he needed to.”
Maybe a move down to the Xfinity Series is just what DiBenedetto needs to add some wins to his resume and potentially sign on some new sponsors. Wherever he races, his loyal set of fans will certainly follow him.