Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway offers Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy team one last chance to be among the 16 team that will participate in the 2021 Cup Series Playoffs.
DiBenedetto and the Menards/Dutch Boy team enter the regular season finale 16th in the Cup Series standings, but because two teams behind them in the standings have a race victory this season, the No. 21 team will need a win on Saturday night to return to the Playoffs.
DiBenedetto, who will start Saturday night’s 400-miler from ninth place, said he and the Menards/Dutch Boy team are optimistic that they will be able to earn that final Playoff spot.
“We have really fast Mustangs on the speedways, and our team is on a roll,” he said, adding that he and the crew, including spotter Doug Campbell, will be making plans to best respond to the different scenarios that races at Daytona produce.
“Doug and I study like crazy for these races,” he said. “We have an entire day set aside to study together and be fully prepared for what I call a chess match of a race.”
DiBenedetto and the Menards/Dutch Boy team have reasons to be hopeful for a victory.
They enter the race riding a string of six consecutive finishes of 11th or better, including top-six finishes in the past two races.
And Fords have been fast at Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway. Ford drivers have won 10 of the past 12 Cup races at Talladega and have six wins in the past 14 Cup races on the oval at Daytona, including the most recent race there.
“Obviously the hope is to get this Menards/Dutch Boy Mustang in the Playoffs because we have a ton of strength and momentum as a team,” DiBenedetto said.
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set to get the green flag just after 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, with TV coverage on NBC.
Stage breaks are set for Laps 50 and 100 of the 160-lap race.