By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A quiet day for Matt DiBenedetto earned him a top-10 finish as the NASCAR Cup Series nears the end of the regular season.
The Wood Brothers Racing driver entered the top-10 in the final Stage of the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Altanta Motor Speedway. The No. 21 Menards / Quaker State Ford Mustang battled with Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott, and others in the caution-free final Stage. After a round of green flag pit stops, DiBenedetto found himself battling with Elliott, Christopher Bell, Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.
The old, worn out surface at Atlanta spread the field out. High tire wear, combined with the aero package, put track position at a premium. When the checkered flag waved, DiBenedetto scored his second consecutive top-10 finish.
“This is another good example of where we’re really clicking as a team and executing, and I think we made about the most of our car,” explained DiBenedetto. “We just kept chipping away at it. (Jonathan) Hassler (crew chief) made good adjustments and just kept getting better and better. That’s all you can ask for. I think everybody just did a good job.
“You like those days when you don’t have anything too crazy to talk about other than our team just doing a good job. Our pit stops were good. We were solid all day there. Hassler made great adjustments and we did fall back there. At a point we got pretty tight. The track changed a little and we got tight, but we took a little stab at it and got right back to where we were running in the top 10 and made the most of it. I’m pretty happy with it.”
After starting 12th due to NASCAR’s metric qualifying formula, DiBenedetto finished the first two Stages outside of the top-10. Although he didn’t score any additional points, the Grass Valley, Calif. native kept his Ford Mustang out of trouble.
He was ahead of the only accident of the day and avoided potholes on the frontstretch of Atlanta. The potholes on the frontstretch forced NASCAR to red flag the race after the second Stage for repairs. About 20 minutes after the red flag first waved, the race restart. This was the final NASCAR race for Atlanta in its’ current configuration.
The top-10 finish moved DiBenedetto up from 20th in points to 18th. However, with Kurt Busch’s win, the Ford Performance driver is now 138-points behind the playoff cutoff, held by Tyler Reddick. DiBenedetto is 411-points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
Almost two full races worth of points behind the cutoff, with five races remaining before the playoffs, only a win can truly guarantee DiBenedetto a playoff berth.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo