After a 10-week layoff due to the coronavirus, Matt DiBenedetto climbed back into the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang and was back at work in Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway.
In an effort to try to prevent the spread of the virus, Sunday’s race was run without practice or qualifying.
DiBenedetto said taking the green flag at the “Track Too Tough to Tame” under those circumstances wasn’t as difficult as it might seem.
“It felt great to get back in the car,” he said. “It was like riding a bike. Even Lap One was not uncomfortable.
“It was good to get back in a rhythm.”
With no practice to fine-tune the set-up of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, the team had to make its best guess as far as a combination of shocks, springs and adjustments.
DiBenedetto said they came close to getting the set-up they needed but were a bit off.
“We couldn’t get the balance right,” he said. “We worked on it, but never could get the speed we were looking for.
“At best we were a 10th- to 12th-place car and wound up 14th,” he said. “We fought hard and made the best adjustments we could, but we had to work with what we had when we unloaded.”
Sunday’s return to racing saw the Mustang of Kevin Harvick take the checkered flag, and Eddie Wood said the victory came at a great time for Ford Motor Company.
“With all that Ford has done in using its resources to address the health-care crisis facing our nation, the company and its employees deserve to have a race win to celebrate,” Wood said. “And it was more special because it was such a dominating victory.”
DiBenedetto’s 14th-place finish allowed him to remain ninth in the Cup standings heading into Wednesday night’s race, a rare mid-week Cup race which also will be run at Darlington Raceway.