When the Cup Series arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a year ago, Matt DiBenedetto, like every other driver and race team, was trying to sort out a new set of rules including a radically different low horsepower/high downforce handling package.
This time around he’ll be driving the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang that was one of the faster cars in last year’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas.
“It was interesting last year trying to figure out the new rules, the new package,” DiBenedetto said. “The encouraging part was that our team and the Team Penske cars showed a lot of speed.
“I think our car will be good this time.”
DiBenedetto, who has made six career Cup starts at Las Vegas, said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s race.
“I like the track,” he said. “It’s a fun place to go to. I enjoy racing there especially when the cars get spread around.”
DiBenedetto said that while he didn’t get the result he’d hoped for in the Daytona 500, he did see a lot of positives from his first race with the Wood Brothers team.
“What was most impressive was how prepared the team was for repairing crash damage,” he said.
After sustaining what looked like race-ending damage in a 19-car wreck with 15 of the scheduled 200 laps left in the 500, DiBenedetto was able to return to the track, make minimum speed, and continue on to the finish.
“It looked like there was no way to possibly get back out there,” he said. “And then we went and gained nine or 10 spots from where we were.
“We did so because of the team being so prepared for repairing the car and then executing the repairs.
“It was huge for points.”
DiBenedetto also said he believes his team is way ahead of schedule as far as building chemistry between him, crew chief Greg Erwin, spotter Doug Campbell and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“I felt really good about how well we all worked together and how good the communication was, and that was just Week One,” he said.
Qualifying for the Pennzoil 400 is set for Saturday at 11:35 a.m. (2:35 Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (3:30 Eastern) with TV coverage on FOX.