After and up-and-down weekend, Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team came away from Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway with a 13th-place finish.
The finish puts DiBenedetto and the No. 21 team in ninth place in the Cup Series standings as the three-race West Coast Swing comes to a conclusion.
DiBenedetto started Sunday’s race from ninth place and immediately began a march forward. He was in seventh place after 10 laps, in fifth by Lap 28, and remained in the top five for the remainder of the first Stage. He finished that 75-lap segment in fourth place and earned seven stage points.
The second stage was somewhat of a struggle for DiBenedetto and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team as a tight handling condition left them in 17th place at the end of that 115-lap segment.
Crew chief Greg Erwin and the crew continued to adjust on the No. 21 Mustang on each pit stop and DiBenedetto was able to drive up to 11th place at one point.
In the closing laps, he avoided several collisions around him and put a fresh set of tires to work to finish 13th in a race that went into an overtime period that extended the race’s total distance from 312 laps (500 kilometers) to 316.
Eddie Wood said he liked the fact that a new driver/team combination was able to overcome struggles in practice to qualify in the top 10 and have fast car early in the race, and then to bounce back from a loss of speed mid-race to finish just outside the top 10.
“The track changed during the race, and it took some significant adjustments to get the speed back in the car,” he said. “When Matt was back there around 17th, it was tough to get going in that dirty air, but he made a good recovery.”
Wood also said the team’s work in the first four races has him optimistic heading into the upcoming weekend.
“We’ve had four races at four different kinds of tracks, and it’s encouraging to be ninth in points,” he said. “Now we’ll go to Atlanta and see how it goes there.”
Atlanta Motor Speedway hosts the Folds of Honor/Quik Trip 500 next Sunday. Sunday’s race will mark the Wood Brothers’ 107th start at the 60-year-old track, where they’ve won 12 times.