With seven races left on the 2020 Cup Series schedule, the goals have shifted a bit for Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Menards/Duracell team, but the determination to succeed remains unwavering.
They were among the four teams eliminated from the Cup Series Playoffs at the end of the Round of 16, but there are still significant accomplishments to pursue, among them a race win and a choice spot in the final points standings.
The work begins this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Sunday’s South Point 400. It was at Las Vegas back in February, where DiBenedetto, riding on older tires but having track position due to a strategy call, scored a runner-up finish in his second race in the Wood Brothers Mustang.
"I can’t wait for Vegas, especially after finishing second there earlier this year," DiBenedetto said, adding that he’s ready to put the disappointment of dropping out of championship contention behind him. "I’m bummed we didn’t make it through the first round of the Playoffs and had a few rough races, but I’m excited to go to a strong track for us and to finish the season strong in this Menards/Duracell Mustang."
DiBenedetto will have some extra motivation this weekend as the Menards/Duracell Mustang will be honoring a cancer hero, Marnie Howiler, as part of the Nominate a Cancer Hero program spearheaded by the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation.
Howiler, from Cornelius, N.C., is the granddaughter of the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac. She was diagnosed with Stage IV Wilms Tumor at five years old and underwent eight months of treatment.
Howiler was nominated by Robbie Isaac, daughter of the late NASCAR champion, who said she reconnected with the Wood Brothers at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and now cheers, along with her family, for DiBenedetto and the No. 21 Mustang.
In her nomination, Isaac wrote: "Since there isn’t a No. 71 [her father’s car number], in the field, being with Matt, the Wood Brothers and the No. 21 car is the perfect place for Marnie. They are all survivors and winners."
Isaac described DiBenedetto as "a person everyone would love to see win."
She had similar praise for Howiler. "Marnie is my cancer hero because she chooses to be happy every day and enjoy life. She is a wonderful person, and I couldn’t love her more."
Sunday’s South Point 400 is set to get the green flag just after 7 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on NBCSN.