Toyota MENCS Kansas Quotes – Matt DiBenedetto

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Your team owner has owned Twitter this week. Can you give us some insight into his personality?

“I’m definitely proud to drive for Bob (Leavine, Team Owner), because he’s a really, really passionate individual. He always wants to be a man of the people. I guess that’s the best way to explain him. He’s responding to so many people, and he’s so new to social media, so it’s kind of like when younger kids get on social media and are on it non-stop and obsessed with it. He has been there quite a bit. But just in general, to sum up Bob, he’s just a passionate individual about everything he does and he wants to be a man of the people, just one of the regular guys.”

You are one of the leaders of the Fan Vote. Do you have any hopes of winning it?

“Yeah, I thought that this is what this media availability is for! All of the ‘Vote for Guido’ campaigns. I think a lot of people have seen we have made a lot of big pushes in the past, but I have been fortunate that my popularity or risen through the ranks has risen over the past few years, so I am in the best possible position I have ever been in. So I think we have a shot, by far, this year at winning the Fan Vote. I have been asked in the past why it is so important to me and the race team, but it is, it’s a big deal for your team, your sponsors, for everybody. So it’s a big deal.”

Given your good runs this year, how has your confidence level changed versus years past?
“Confidence is definitely something I have never lacked for sure. That is just how you have to be to be successful in this industry. As far as our performance this year, I’m not happy with our results just due to random circumstances. I mean, we have had great runs, great speed in our cars, but some of the results have made you want to bash your head against the wall, because it just doesn’t reflect how good we are as a team. Like the Daytona 500, we led the most laps and arguably had a dominate car and you crash. Phoenix, we had a good car, running 10th to 12th, and we had an alternator issue, and then results show 27th. Last weekend, we had to start at the tail, and had a car that could have probably ran top 10, and we got stuck in 20th. I could go on and on. The team does an amazing job. Toyota is nothing but fast race cars this year, and I just hope to get into a rhythm that we are getting the finishes that reflect the power of our team.”

Do you think you have a better chance of winning the Fan Vote or winning one of the stages of the Open?

“I think we should have a shot at racing our way in. A really good shot based on the speed that our cars have had this year. That is the ultimate goal and the plan. But it is also nice to have the support of everybody and the ‘Vote for Guido’ campaign and the cool response we got to the nickname, I don’t want to call it change, I have been called Guido my whole life, but for some people, change.”

What has the transition been like with the new team and working with Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief)?

“It definitely has been a big transition. Not only for me, but the whole team because there has been so much change: switching to Toyota, the alliance with JGR, all of that has been great. My job is a whole lot busier this year, and I have been fortunate to grow and mature a lot over the years. This would be a much tougher task to take on if I was a rookie or very inexperienced. It has been nice because we have guys that are experienced coming in, like Wheels. It is a lot of transition for the team, but when you have Wheels, who can come in and lead the team and a lot of good people; it has gone smoothly and we have a lot of speed in our cars.”

Do you believe LFR is in a position to expand to two cars?

“I don’t really know. I think I am so focused on my stuff and my team and trying to get in a rhythm. I will be honest with you; I just haven’t paid it enough or any attention to give you a good answer. Probably some of the guys on the team would be better ones to ask than me.”

You took a big gamble to make this move. What has the transition been like from a personal level?

“Thankful for sure is the word that I would use and lucky, which has been my whole career to get to this point. It was the most stressful time of my life when I made that decision. But it has been my whole life to get to the Cup Series and I want to win races, and I want to compete, so that is why I took that gamble and bet on myself. I always put a lot of pressure and stress on myself to perform and do the best possible job that I can. My job is just a whole lot busier, a whole lot more going on. Between being at TRD a lot, and at the race shop a ton and looking at data, so I’m pretty much seven days a week this year, which is what I like. I love and life for this stuff so much, so when we haven’t got some of the results and finishes due to just some poor luck and circumstances. It really affects my week and my life at home because I don’t do or really live anything other than this.”

How is your dog?

“That is an important question. Brian is doing good. He got bit by a copperhead yesterday. His face is pretty swollen up, but we rushed him to the hospital and he is doing okay. He is doing better today; the swelling is starting to go down. He is on some pain meds.”

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