Sunday, June 29, 2014

N’WIDE: Matt DiBenedetto’s First Last-Place Finish Is Number 1400 For Chevrolet

SOURCE: Mike Neff, Frontstretch
Matt DiBenedetto picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Nationwide Series career in Friday’s John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at the Kentucky Speedway when his unsponsored #46 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet fell out with rear gear problems after he completed 2 of the race’s 200 laps.  The finish came in DiBenedetto’s 32nd series start.

DiBenedetto, a 22-year-old racer from Grass Valley, California, made his Nationwide Series debut at Memphis in the fall of 2009, where he started 4th and finished 14th in the #20 entry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.  He made six more starts with Gibbs the following season, scoring his first two top-ten finishes and a career-best 9th at Iowa.  However, DiBenedetto’s races for Gibbs went to Drew Herring and Ryan Truex for 2011, leaving him without a ride for nearly two seasons.

DiBenedetto made his return to the series at Dover, when he signed with Curtis Key to drive a “start-and-park” entry to help fund the team’s primary #40 car.  With the exception of a five-race stint for Vision Racing in mid-2013, DiBenedetto has remained with Key’s team, now known as The Motorsports Group (TMG).  TMG currently runs two cars with DiBenedetto mostly running in the #46 while Josh Wise runs the #40.

Coming into Friday’s race, DiBenedetto had driven TMG’s #40 twice in 2014, finishing 25th at Iowa and a season-best 11th for the team last week at Road America - TMG’s best finish since Mike Bliss came home 9th at Fontana in the fall of 2010.  As it turned out, DiBenedetto was just one of several great small-team stories on the day.  Tops among them was 3rd-place finisher Kevin O’Connell, who scored owner Rick Ware’s first-ever top-five finish after 279 Nationwide starts, 234 Truck Series starts, and one Cup start at Las Vegas in 2012.

With all three of NASCAR’s top series running at Kentucky, DiBenedetto again returned to the #46 while Wise climbed aboard the #40.  47 cars were originally going to battle for starting spots in the 40-car field, and while four withdrew before practice, DiBenedetto’s starting spot was still far from guaranteed.  He stepped up with the 21st-fastest speed in the opening practice, skipped Happy Hour, then sped to the 28th-fastest time in qualifying with a speed of 170.159 mph - two spots in front of Wise - earning him a spot in the field.

At the start of Friday’s race, previous LASTCAR record holder Derrike Cope held the final spot, but was passed by DiBenedetto after he pulled behind the wall, beating current LASTCAR record holder Jeff Green by two laps.  Mechanical problems sent Cope behind the wall twice before his car finally fell out with brake problems after 80 laps, leaving him 37th.  Finishing behind Cope was Tanner Berryhill in his family’s Dodge while ahead of Cope was Cup regular Matt Kenseth, who lost control off Turn 2 and crashed out of the race after 102 laps.

*Although this is the second last-place finish for the #46 this season, joining Ryan Ellis’ run at Iowa, it is the first last-place finish for the number in a Nationwide Series race at Kentucky.
*DiBenedetto’s last-place finish was the 1400th for Chevrolet across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions.  Chevrolet remains second in the 2014 LASTCAR Nationwide Manufacturer’s standings, five finishes behind Toyota.

40) #46-Matt DiBenedetto / 2 laps / rear gear
39) #10-Jeff Green / 4 laps / vibration
38) #17-Tanner Berryhill / 53 laps / brakes
37) #70-Derrike Cope / 80 laps / ignition
36) #20-Matt Kenseth / 102 laps / crash

1st) Blake Koch (6)
2nd) Jeff Green (3)
3rd) Tanner Berryhill, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis, Kevin Lepage, Tim Schendel, Jimmy Weller (1)

1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (7)
2nd) #46-The Motorsports Group, #91-TriStar Motorsports (2)
3rd) #17-Vision Racing, #55-VIVA Motorsports / SS Green Light Racing, #87-Rick Ware Racing, #93-JGL Racing (1)

1st) Toyota (9)
2nd) Chevrolet (4)
3rd) Dodge (2)

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