If there ever was a NASCAR All-Star Race made to order for Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/FVP team it’s this one.
Due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic the annual non-points-paying extravaganza has been moved from its traditional home at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol Motor Speedway, one of DiBenedetto’s best tracks. And it will be run this Wednesday night, giving him and his team a chance to capitalize on their recent momentum.
His stirring run at Bristol in 2019, where he led 93 laps and eventually finished second, played a big role in his being selected by the retiring Paul Menard to replace him as driver of the iconic No. 21 Mustang fielded by the Wood Brothers.
“Obviously I’m pretty glad that it’s at Bristol,” DiBenedetto said. “I think it’s cool, a cool change. I’m a little biased, though. I love Bristol so much. One of my favorite tracks.”
Because DiBenedetto hasn’t won a Cup race in the past year, he’ll have to race his way into the main event by winning one of the Stages of the preliminary Open or through the fan vote.
That prospect doesn’t intimidate him at all.
“I think it’s cool,” he said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to race our way in. I know the fan vote is important, too. People have been voting, which we appreciate a lot as a team.”
The timing of the All-Star event is a plus for DiBenedetto and the Menards/FVP team.
They were fast when the Cup Series ran a points-paying race at Bristol in May before being swept up in a multi-car crash, and they’ve been on quite a roll in the past few weeks, winning Stage points and running among the leaders every week.
His third-place finish this past Sunday at Kentucky Speedway shows just what the team is capable of doing on a regular basis.
“You see how fast our cars are,” he said. “It makes it so fun driving these things. We’re really getting in a groove as a team now. I finally feel it clicking real well.”
He said his confidence has never been higher.
“What does that, though, is my team,” he said. “Driving this 21 car for the Wood Brothers, having such a good team, great people around you, firing off the race with no practice, yeah, it’s pretty good, don’t really touch it, tiny air pressure [adjustment].
“That’s amazing to have that good of people here. Having our alliance with Team Penske, support from them. All the support from Ford and Menards/FVP. That is what does it. That’s what makes my confidence so high because I’m so confident in my guys.”
The Open is set to get the green flag at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, followed by the All-Star race at 8:30. TV coverage is on FOX Sports 1.