Matt DiBenedetto has become a master at gaining positions on restarts of Cup Series races, and he was able to do that numerous times on Thursday night at Kansas Speedway.
But a Lap 176 restart ended badly for DiBenedetto and the Menards/Dutch Boy team. When a flat tire caused Joey Logano to abruptly slow down ahead of a pack of oncoming cars, DiBenedetto was swept up in the melee, slammed into the wall, bounced back across the track and was hit again before finally coming to rest.
He was uninjured, but the Menards/Dutch Boy Mustang was too damaged to continue, and he was left with a 36th-place finish.
“I couldn’t tell what was going on,” DiBenedetto told a TV audience. “I just tried to go low.
“I saw guys checked up off of [Turn] Two… I just got clipped in the right side. Nothing I could do different.”
Compounding his frustration was the fact that it was the second straight race, the first coming at Texas Motor Speedway, in which DiBenedetto and his Menards team have been collected in a late wreck while in position to score a strong finish.
“We have had garbage luck the last couple of weeks,” he said. “The Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang was fast, and we deserve better.
“We are racing for the playoffs, and this is just annoying.”
The finish dropped DiBenedetto one spot in the points standings to 13th, which means he won’t be among the drivers who draw for the top 12 starting positions next week at New Hampshire.
And it leaves him 15th in the Playoff standings. Only 16 drivers will begin the Playoffs, which start after seven more regular season races.
Even amid his disappointment, DiBenedetto cited reasons to be optimistic going forward. At Kansas, he and the Menards/Dutch Boy team were able to improve on a car that lost ground on green-flag runs despite DiBenedetto’s ability to drive it into the top 10 on early race restarts.
“We made 700 adjustments there and put about 40 rounds of wedge in it I think,” he said in an obvious exaggeration. “Got the balance about right and then we crashed.
“I need an off weekend [then] go to one of my favorite tracks, New Hampshire, and rebound and get a dang finish that we deserve.”