Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Quick Lane team find themselves in a must-win Playoff situation heading into next Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway after a 17th-place finish at Richmond Raceway.
DiBenedetto started Saturday’s 400-lapper at Richmond from 16th place but struggled early with the handling on his Quick Lane Mustang.
He finished 17th in the first Stage and 19th in the second, but he lost a lap when he came just a few laps shy of making a two-pit-stop strategy work in his favor in the second stage.
Still, DiBenedetto was able to run in the free pass spot for a long stretch at the start of the third and final segment of the race.
Unfortunately, the lack of caution flags took away any opportunity to rejoin the lead lap, and he wound up finishing outside the top 15.
There were only three yellow flags all night, one for the competition caution and two for stage breaks.
So, Benedetto and the Quick Lane team head to Bristol 25 points below the Playoff cutline. The bottom four drivers in the standings after Bristol will be eliminated from title contention, so the only plausible way for DiBenedetto, 15th in the standings, to make the Round of 12 would be to win at Bristol since a win in any round guarantees an advancement to the next round.
DiBenedetto, who was racing at Richmond for the first time since joining the Quick Lane team, said the lack of practice there put him and the team at a disadvantage.
"No practice really bit us," he said, adding that his Greg Erwin-led crew was able to tune the No. 21 Mustang and make it competitive after a slow start. "We made a fair amount of adjustments and got it driving, not perfect, but OK.
"We rode in the lucky dog spot for the longest time but couldn’t ever get a caution. That trapped us behind the Eight Ball, and we couldn’t get the finish we deserved."
DiBenedetto said that while winning at Bristol will be a tall order, he believes he and his team are capable of pulling it off.
"We have good race cars, and if we get it just right we have a shot at it," he said.