Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy team head into Darlington Raceway and Sunday’s Goodyear 400 hoping to continue their recent string of success, which includes a top-10 finish at Richmond followed by back-to-back top-fives, at Talladega and Kansas.
DiBenedetto, who is set to start eighth, said he’s anxious to try to tame the Lady in Black, which has confounded many a driver over the years. He said he was up to the challenge presented by the handling package NASCAR has chosen for Darlington races in recent years, one that can lead to lots of slipping and sliding on the 71-year-old track.
“I’m super excited that we are running the low-downforce package at Darlington this week,” he said, adding that he’s hoping to maintain the momentum of the past few weeks.
In the past seven races, he’s been among the top 15 every race and moved from 30th in points to 16th.
“It has been a lot of fun for our group to have gained so much ground in such a short time,” he said. “It really shows our strength as a team.”
Eddie Wood said he too is looking forward to being among the team members at Darlington to support the Menards/Dutch Boy Mustang. He said NASCAR’s original superspeedway is one of his all-time favorite tracks.
“Darlington is special to me,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success there.”
Much of that success came after Wood had become a full-time crew member.
“I was there the first time David Pearson got in our car,” he said. “No one knew how it would work out.”
Pearson was 37 when he joined the Woods eight races into the 1972 season. At that point, he hadn’t enjoyed much success since leaving the powerful Holman-Moody team midway through the 1971 season. And the Woods were running a very limited schedule at that time.
“I remember it very distinctly,” Wood said. “David started on the pole, led a lot of laps (202) and won the race.”
That was the first of six wins in 14 starts in the No. 21 that season, along with five more finishes of fourth or better.
Before they were done, Pearson and the Woods won 43 races together, including multiple victories in the sport’s premier events.
“That first Darlington win started it all,” Wood said.
Sunday’s 400-miler will mark the Woods’ 97th appearance at Darlington, and they will be seeking their ninth win there.
The green flag is set to fly just after 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, with TV coverage on FOX Sports 1. Stage breaks will come at Laps 90 and 185.