Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Duracell team extended their streak of strong road-course runs with a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
DiBenedetto and the Menards/Duracell team recovered from an early race setback to work their way into the top 10 and score their second-straight top-10 finish on a road course and their fourth top-11 in the past four races on road courses.
At Charlotte, DiBenedetto started the race from 30th place, quickly gained 10 spots then began to employ a strategy designed to gain track position.
Crew chief Jonathan Hassler elected to stop for fresh tires before the Competition Caution flag flew at Lap 12 then returned to pit road for fuel during the caution period.
But their strategy was foiled by contact on the track late in Stage One that left the Menards/Duracell Mustang with body damage and cost the team the track position it had gained.
In Stage Two, DiBenedetto worked to overcome the poor track position, and his efforts put him in position to restart the third Stage from 10th place.
With the Menards/Duracell Mustang back up to speed, DiBenedetto was able to maintain his spot in the top 10 until a green-flag pit stop with 30 laps remaining.
DiBenedetto had moved to second place during that round of green-flag stops and was poised to rejoin the field safely in the top 10 once he made his stop.
But damage to a front fender caused a slow stop that put him back in 16th place.
Once again, DiBenedetto began working his way forward. He leapfrogged into to the top 10 by staying on the track when the caution flag flew for debris from Chase Elliott’s car.
Restarting in second place, DiBenedetto was able to hold his spot in the top 10 despite drivers behind him having fresher tires. Another caution gave his challengers with fresher tires more opportunities to pass him, but he held his ground and came home in sixth place. It was his ninth top-12 finish in the past 13 races.
DiBenedetto said Sunday’s strong run is a testament to the hard work the No. 21 team has put into its road-course program.
“Road courses used to be a weak point in our program, and now they’re not,” he said. “The whole team has put so much effort into it and worked really hard to address the areas where we were lacking.”
He said that with a few fewer setbacks on Sunday, the results could have been even better.
“At the end, if we had been on new tires, with Hassler’s strategy, our Menards/Durcell Mustang was as good as any car out there,” he said. “To finish it off like we did on old tires shows just how good our car was.”
Next up for DiBenedetto and the No. 21 team is the Autotrader 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 17.