Matt DiBenedetto will drive for Leavine Family Racing in 2019.
The team made the announcement that DiBenedetto was joining the team Wednesday along with the revelation of a well-known secret that the team was switching to Toyota in 2019.
DiBenedetto announced in September that he was leaving the GoFas Racing No. 32 car at the end of the season. He’s currently 30th in the points standings.
He said in his September Twitter statement that “I believe that this gives me the best opportunity to further my career and showcase my talent and ability at the highest level. Winning races has always been the goal and now I’m taking a leap of faith and betting on myself to prove it. Watching other drivers get opportunities has definitely been a driving force in my decision, knowing that I can get it done if given the chance.”
It’s hard to see how a move to LFR accomplishes his goal of winning races, even if the team will have equipment supplied by Joe Gibbs Racing.
Leavine Family Racing has two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes in 178 Cup Series starts dating back to 2011. Michael McDowell’s 10th-place finish at Homestead in 2016 is the team’s only top 10 that didn’t happen at either Daytona or Talladega.
LFR started as a Ford team and switched to Chevy in 2016. It has been aligned with Richard Childress Racing in 2018 as Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith have driven for the team. Kahne was set to be the team’s full-time driver and drove the first 25 races of the season before being forced to retire early because of heat-related medical issues. Smith will finish the season for the team.
Kahne finished fourth at Daytona in July and he and Smith have combined for a 22.3 average finish this season.
The team’s performance will probably improve with JGR equipment. But it’s doubtful that improvement will be significant. While Furniture Row Racing — a team that’s shutting down at the end of the season — has thrived in its technical alliance with JGR, the team was performing very well before switching to Toyota in 2016. Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth in 2015, the team’s final season with Chevrolet. There’s no performance base there for LFR.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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