Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

DiBenedetto Encouraged By Start To The Season

LAS VEGAS, Nev — It may still be early in the 2019 season, but it is already been an up-and-down year for Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, who used the word “encouraging” to describe the first two races.

“Encouraging, would be a good word because Daytona we lead the most laps in the 500 and Atlanta we had good speed, we probably had a top-15 car but got into incident on pit road, got hit and got some damage, had to pit under green, and that kind of ruined our day,” DiBenedetto told POPULAR SPEED. “But, as far as the speed and the people we have and the work ethic, and the partnership with Toyota, that’s like really really really good. I think we’ll have some fast racecars and good runs all year.”

For the 27-year-old, the arrival of the new year has brought upon a transition. After two seasons with Go Fas Racing, he moved to LFR’s No. 95, which subsequently brought him back to the Toyota camp as his new team moved to the manufacture after being previously associated with Chevrolet.

“It’s been a lot of change, but I kind of feel at home being back in the Toyota camp,” DiBenedetto said. “They have always treated me so good, and I’m really appreciative for that. So, it feels great, just being back here and they treat me as important as any of their other drivers and are really dedicated to making this team a growing and winning organization. The support you get from them is pretty awesome.”

The change also gifted the California-native a new crew chief in Mike Wheeler, someone who is no stranger to success in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, winning five races with Denny Hamlin, which included a Daytona 500 in 2016.

“What I like is that he will make me a better driver because he expects a lot of me and of everybody,” DiBenedetto said. “He’s experienced and he knows what it takes to win, so he knows what I need to do, he knows the homework I need to do, he puts me to work and makes me study and be as prepared as I possibly can be to drive the car. We get along very well because we are both very passionate and he cares a lot and those are the type of people you want to be surrounded by.”

Looking ahead at the upcoming season, many say that this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the first real test of the new rules package. DiBenedetto noted that restarts and pit stops will be very important, and looking outside Vegas at the west coast swing, the three races will provide three different challenges.

“I think they are all going to be so different, that’s the cool part,” DiBenedetto said. “Here (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) we tested, and I learned that track position and restarts are going to be important and, I think Phoenix will be different because we will have horsepower and we’ll be going really fast around there. Then Fontana is completely different, I think that will actually be a pretty good race because, you get clean air in the corners because you can run seven different lanes, that will be a fun one.”

Heading into this weekend, DiBenedetto will look to finish the job after two races with positive starts and negative endings.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

A Win-Win-Win Scenario For Leavine, DiBenedetto, And Toyota

On Wednesday, Leavine Family Racing announced that Matt DiBenedetto would be the driver of their No. 95 in 2019.

Also, the team also confirmed they would be switching to Toyota and forming an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.

These moves are wins for everybody involved.

It’s a victory for LFR, a young team who has yet to make a significant impact in the sport now takes over the spot Furniture Row Racing currently has with Gibbs.

While there is no guarantee that they perform as well as FRR, this is a team that is currently used to qualifying around 25th and finishing around 20th; the opportunity at hand give them to an excellent chance to improve. They will now have the assistance of one of the best organizations in NASCAR and manufacture support from the defending manufacturers’ champion.

On the flip side, the move works well for JGR and Toyota as they will not lose a team at the end of the season despite FRR’s demise.

Besides, if all goes well, the two could have a potential landing spot in Cup for some of their development drivers that are currently rising the ranks of NASCAR. Whereas without LFR and with the four-car limit the sport has in place, they could lose drivers as they have with Noah Gragson, William Byron, and Ryan Preece due to not having enough room. With the No. 95 in their stable, they now have that chance to work with Leavine and possibly create a situation like they had in 2017, where Erik Jones ran full-time in Cup with FRR.

The move is also a win for DiBenedetto, their newly acquired driver.

The 27-year-old who left his home for the last two years in Go Fas Racing simply because of the fact he wanted a chance to prove himself. The move to the No. 95 allows him.

DiBenedetto, who has went from starting and parking to racing in lower-funded rides, now has an opportunity to show everyone that he belongs here.

The California-native showed that his skill when scoring the occasional top-10’s with BK Racing and Go Fas; if he can continue to exceed exactions with his new team, the potential for more success will continue to grow.

With all the changes that are coming in 2019, this may be one that will require the most attention as the season progresses.

Can they see success even close to the bar set by Furniture Row? How much will they improve? All these questions will eventually be answered, but for now, Leavine Family Racing appears to be heading in a positive direction.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

McDowell, Parrott Return to Leavine Family Racing

Thursday was a banner day for Leavine Family Racing as they announced Michael McDowell and crew chief Todd Parrott will both return to the team full-time this season.

“With both Michael and Todd returning to the team this season we are looking to maintain the consistency we found towards the end of last year and continue to push forward and build off the positive momentum,” said Jeremy Lange, Vice President of Leavine Family Racing. “We had great performances on the track last year and we’re hoping that continuing in that direction will lead to more sponsorships for the team. We do have some partner renewals that we will be announcing soon and are excited to add more.”

McDowell, who has been with LFR since 2014, will compete across the whole 36 race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule for the first time in his career. McDowell led LFR to 16 top-25 finishes last season.

“I’m excited to be returning full time with LFR for the 2017 season,” stated McDowell. “I look forward to continuing to work with Todd as well and kicking off our season with a strong start at the Daytona 500 in February.”

Parrott, who was the crew chief for 1999 Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett, returns to the team after taking over crew chief duties late last season. In addition to Jarrett, he has worked with some of the biggest names in the sport including Ryan Newman, Bobby Labonte, Elliott Sadler, and Ty Dillon. In seven races together last year, McDowell and Parrott scored six top-25 finishes, including a top-10 in the season finale.

“I can’t wait for the 2017 season to get here and look forward to having a great year with Michael and the team,” said Parrott. “I’m appreciative of the opportunity LFR has given me to once again assume the crew chief role for the team and am ready to get started on the upcoming season.”

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.