Matt DiBenedetto had a fast Quick Lane Mustang for much of Monday’s rain-delayed GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but in the end he fell victim to one of the crashes that often occur in the draft at Talladega and its sister track, Daytona International Speedway.
DiBenedetto was involved in a last-lap melee on the backstretch, was unable to continue to the finish line and wound up 26th.
“We pitted for fuel and were driving up through the middle and got blindsided by somebody crashing,” he said.
He was checked out at the track’s infield care center and released but said it was a bruising wreck.
“It was a hard hit,” he said. “But I should be fine.”
Early in the race, things were going much better for DiBenedetto and the No. 21 team. He started 23rd after the starting line-up was set by drawing positions.
He had moved up to 19th by the time the competition caution flag flew at Lap 27, and led that lap by staying on the track while the drivers ahead of him pitted. Back underway he cracked the top five by Lap 42, and was in second place two laps later. He took the lead at one point but had dropped to 13th place when rain halted the race at Lap 57.
After a 58-minute red flag, drivers headed to pit road, and DiBenedetto returned to the track in 10th place.
Working with his Ford teammates, he kept the Quick Lane Mustang among the top five for much of the second Stage of the race but ended that segment in 17th place.
DiBenedetto was sent to the rear of the pack for speeding on pit road during a stop with 43 laps remaining, but battled back into the top 20 and was in 19th place for the start of the overtime finish, where he was collected in the last-lap crash on the backstretch that caused him to drop one spot to 15th in the points standings.
The No. 21 team now heads to Pocono Raceway for a Saturday-Sunday double-header this weekend.