The record will show that Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Tuscany Faucets Ford finished 21st in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
But what Eddie Wood - and lots of others - will remember most is the strong drive from DiBenedetto, who led three times for 10 laps and was in contention to win all the way until the final straightaway, and the smart pit calls by crew chief Greg Erwin, who chose to top off the fuel tank with 38 laps remaining.
That decision by Erwin put DiBenedetto in position to stay on the track through three overtime runs to the checkered flag while other contenders had to stop for fuel in a race that ran 12 laps past the advertised distance.
But a dramatic win, or even a heart-breaking close runner-up finish wasn’t meant to be. DiBenedetto led Laps 193-199 and most of the 200th and final lap, but was nipped at the finish line by Denny Hamlin.
Then it was announced that DiBenedetto had been assessed a penalty for yellow-line violation, which relegated him from second place to 21st.
“I can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of Matt, who did everything you’re supposed to do in a superspeedway race, and of Greg, who made the exact right call to top off after our last pit stop,” Wood said. “We all appreciate the support from Menards, Tuscany Faucets, Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford.
“We just came up short.”
DiBenedetto and the No. 21 team move on to the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday.