For Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Libman team, a third-straight short-track race is just what he says they need to continue climbing up the Cup Series standings.
DiBenedetto said he finds lots of positives heading into Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at the three-quarter-mile Richmond Raceway.
“The biggest thing I’m excited about is it’s a short track,” he said. “Our Menards/Libman Mustangs have been the strongest on the short tracks.”
He’s also looking forward to putting to use some of the information he and his Wood Brothers team gathered last fall at Richmond.
“We tried some things and learned a lot,” said DiBenedetto, who is set to start 16th on Sunday. “I feel really confident as far as coming up with a set-up that gives me what I need out of the car.”
Then there’s the alliance between the Wood Brothers and Team Penske, which won the most recent Cup race at Richmond with its No. 2 team and driver Brad Keselowski.
“Brad was really fast in that race,” DiBenedetto said. “Our alliance with Team Penske is really helpful. We can learn a lot from that.”
After a disappointing start to the 2021 season, which saw the No. 21 team finish outside the top 30 in the first two races, there’s been a steady climb. DiBenedetto and the team have climbed 15 spots in the points standings to 22nd, largely on the strength of five consecutive finishes between 11th and 16th.
“We’ve been able to come up in the standings even with some crazy circumstances thrown at us,” he said. “We’ve overcome tons of adversity and put together some OK finishes, even though our finishes are still not reflective of how good a race team we have.”
DiBenedetto said it’s important to remember that even though he and his team have had some bad luck this year, other drivers and teams have had more misfortunes.
“It just shows how tough this sport can be,” he said.
Sunday’s 400-lap, 300-mile race is set to get the green flag just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time, with no pre-race practice or qualifying. There will be Stage breaks and Laps 80 and 235. FOX will carry the TV broadcast.