Matt DiBenedetto overcame an early brush with the wall to lead the final 15 laps of the NASCAR Open at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday night, earning his first win in a major NASCAR race and a berth for the No. 21 Menards/FVP Mustang in the NASCAR All-Star Race.
DiBenedetto also had early contact with the wall in the All-Star Race but battled back to finish 13th in the first All-Star appearance of his career.
Even though the All-Star result wasn’t what he was hoping for, it didn’t overshadow the accomplishment of winning the Open, where he stormed through the field then held off Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon for the victory.
“The Open race went really good,” DiBenedetto said. “We got damage early. It was just a racing deal, but it put us in the wall pretty hard and we had to pit to fix it.
“We restarted from the rear and blew back through the field. I had to push some people out of the way to get back to the front and get the win.”
The Menards/FVP team repaired the damage from the Open prior to the start of the All-Star race, and DiBenedetto was encouraged with the speed his Mustang had shown in the Open even with body damage.
A similar scenario played out in the All-Star race when William Byron suddenly slowed ahead of him. DiBenedetto slammed on the brakes and wound up contacting the wall, resulting in significant damage to the Menards/FVP Mustang.
“I didn’t expect him to check up like he did, and I wheel hopped, hit the wall and knocked in the side of the car,” DiBenedetto said. “It was really beyond repair, but we made the most of it and were able to take advantage of the last restart and pick up some spots at the end.”
DiBenedetto said he remains encouraged about the speed and performance of the No. 21 Mustang as the team heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.
“We’ve been on a roll lately,” he said.