|PHOTO: Jonathan Moore, Getty Images North America|
The finish, which came in DiBenedetto’s 67th series start, was his 13th of the season and first since Dover, four races ago. He remains 10 finishes behind Jeff Green’s single-season record of 23, set with the same team last year. However, he now ties Kevin Lepage for the third-most in series history.
Phoenix was DiBenedetto’s first start in the #10 since Dover. Since then, he’d failed to qualify at Charlotte and crashed for a 36th-place run at Texas, but also scored a strong 11th-place run at Kansas in TriStar’s #14 Superior Essex Toyota. For Phoenix, the #14 would go to Cole Whitt, who earlier this month announced he would not make any more Cup starts this season. The #10 missed the Kansas race, and Jeff Green parked it once more at Texas for his 89th career XFINITY last-place run. DiBenedetto was slated to do the same.
DiBenedetto was one of 44 drivers on the preliminary entry list, following another late entry on Wednesday of the Obaika Racing team with Ryan Ellis in the #77 and Josh Bilicki in the #97. DiBenedetto ran a strong 19th in both practice sessions and qualified 29th with a speed of 130.411mph. Missing the field were Ellis’ Obaika car, David Starr in RSS Racing’s #93 Massimo Motors Chevrolet, owner-driver Morgan Shepherd in the #89 Racing With Jesus Chevrolet, and Dexter Stacey, who on Thursday was again tabbed to drive for Derrike Cope in the #70 E-Hydrate / Ashurst American Honey Chevrolet.
Josh Bilicki’s Obaika #97 rolled off 40th on Saturday night, joined by Corey LaJoie and Brad Keselowski, whose cars were sent to the rear for unapproved adjustments. DiBenedetto fell to the rear by the end of the first lap, already 9.462 seconds behind the leaders. On Lap 2, he was 11.279 behind, then 25.908 on Lap 3, 11.809 behind 39th-place Mike Harmon. That time by, DiBenedetto pulled the #10 behind the wall under green, the race’s first retiree.
Finishing 39th was two-time last-placer Timmy Hill in Motorsports Business Management’s #40 Phoenix Air / Utvint.com Toyota, out with brake issues. 38th went to Alex Bowman, who one day after winning his first Cup pole for Sunday’s race suffered the first of a series of hard crashes in Turn 3. Jeff Green, who finished 21st in his last start for B.J. McLeod at Kansas, ended up 37th with his own wreck on Lap 93 in McLeod’s unsponsored #99 Ford. Rounding out the Bottom Five in 36th was Ray Black, Jr., whose #07 ScubaLife Chevrolet narrowly missed a stack-up on the initial start only to crash in Turn 1 on Lap 106.
*This marked both Toyota’s ninth consecutive XFINITY Series last-place finish and the sixth in the last seven Phoenix races for TriStar Motorsports.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Matt DiBenedetto / 3 laps / vibration
39) #40-Timmy Hill / 14 laps / brakes
38) #88-Alex Bowman / 54 laps / crash
37) #99-Jeff Green / 90 laps / crash
36) #07-Ray Black, Jr. / 103 laps / crash
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (20)
2nd) Motorsports Business Management (4)
3rd) RSS Racing (3)
4th) B.J. McLeod Motorsports, Inc., JD Motorsports (2)
5th) Chip Ganassi Racing (1)
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (22)
2nd) Chevrolet (7)
3rd) Ford (2)
4th) Dodge (1)
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP