After a mid-week trip to Bristol Motor Speedway where Matt DiBenedetto won the NASCAR All-Star Open, earning his first appearance in the NASCAR All-Star Race, it’s back to work in the points-paying races on the Cup Series schedule.
DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team are headed to Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday, hoping for more of the same from the past few weeks.
"We’ve been having a lot of fun lately as far as our car speed and stuff, so that’s been great," DiBenedetto said. "I’m excited to get to Texas and hopefully continue on this roll that we’re on where we’ve gotten stage points in the last eight stages in a row.
"That just shows we’re running in that front group consistently from start to finish of these races, so that’s awesome. I’m excited."
DiBenedetto finished 13th in the All-Star main event after sustaining damage to the No. 21 Mustang in an early incident, but the car was competitive before then, continuing a string of recent strong runs, including a third-place finish this past Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.
"We’ve really been building and getting better and better, running up there in that front group consistently from start to finish in a lot of these races lately," he said. "We’re continuing to get more and more points, climbing up there, catching guys in front of us.
"If we keep running up there consistently, that puts us in a position to have a shot at winning one of these things."
He and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team also have a shot at being one of the 16 teams that will start the Playoffs, which begin after nine more regular season races. He’s now 12th in points and 13th in the playoff standings, 44 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who holds the 16th spot heading into Texas.
"Going in, Goal Number One was making sure to make the playoffs, which is never easy," DiBenedetto said of the 10-race, season-ending race for the Cup Series championship. "Knowing the strength of the team, I know we can work at it and do it, especially now that we’ve been on this good streak lately of having a lot of speed and racking up stage points."
He said he not only wants to make the playoffs, he wants to prove that he and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team belong among the elites in the sport.
"If we keep improving like we have been, I think we can turn a lot of heads," he said.
Due to the coronavirus, there will be no practice or qualifying before Sunday’s 500-miler at Texas, which is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. Eastern Time, with TV coverage on NBCSN.