After a strong second-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Tuscany Faucets team head to Talladega Superspeedway hoping to improve their finish by one position. That would deliver DiBenedetto his first Cup victory and his Wood Brothers team its 100th.
Based on recent results, Talladega offers lots of opportunity for DiBenedetto and the Ford brigade.
Blue Oval drivers have won nine of the past 10 Cup races at Talladega, and Team Penske, which has an alliance with the No. 21 team, has won eight of the past 12 Cup races at the giant Alabama track.
In a recent Zoom conference, DiBenedetto’s optimism about the upcoming races on the schedule, including Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega, was evident.
“We only have great tracks coming up, and we're strong as a team,” he said. “We can contend for wins.”
DiBenedetto, who admittedly wasn’t one of the better racers at Talladega and Daytona earlier in his career, said that in recent years he’s gotten better, and now focuses on doing his homework headed into those races.
“You've always got to work so hard and study so much for the plate races,” he said. “I'll probably sit down with my spotter Doug Campbell this week and go over every bit of information… watch some previous video, all that stuff to prepare,” he said.
DiBenedetto explained that the disadvantages of racing at a plate track as a single-car outfit disappear when he has quasi-teammates like Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney from Team Penske to work with in the draft.
“They are incredible plate racers and obviously our cars, the Fords, are fast,” he said.
But, as DiBenedetto has learned in previous races at Talladega, even the best of plans can fly out the window in a matter of seconds.
“Talladega is wild, so many variables,” he said. “You can either get wiped out or you can have a solid day….
“Hopefully luck is on our side.”
There will be no qualifying or practice prior to the start of the YellaWood 500, which is set to get the green flag at 2 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on NBC.