Matt DiBenedetto shows off road-course talents with Watkins Glen top 10

Daniel McFadin
NBC Sports

Matt DiBenedetto and Leavine Family Racing finishing in the top 10 is no longer an oddity or an anecdote.

It’s now a trend.

Sunday’s Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International saw DiBenedetto and his No. 95 Toyota finish sixth, giving his team four top 10s in the last seven races.

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That was after DiBenedetto started the race in 20th, a disappointment for DiBenedetto after he was third fastest in final practice Saturday.

“Track position was big and we got messed up in our qualifying run by a couple guys, but it wasn’t their fault,” DiBenedetto said after the race. “So that set us back and we just had to diligently, all race long, inch our way forward little by little.”

His impressive climb through the field follows a similar performance at Sonoma Raceway in June when DiBenedetto placed fourth.

“It was cool and it’s always so satisfying on these road courses for us to inch our way forward and pass some guys,” DiBenedetto said. “I wish we could have started a little further forward. I know we could have run a little bit better, but that’s fine. It’s fun to get so much support from all our team, Toyota, JGR and Procore. I just hope I can be a part of this for a long time to come.”

The top 10 follows an eighth-place finish at Daytona and a fifth-place finish two weeks ago at New Hampshire.

DiBenedetto credited Martin Truex Jr., who placed second Sunday to Chase Elliott, for proving help in developing his road course abilities.

“Martin’s obviously an excellent road racer, I’ve gotten some good advice from him on the road course at Sonoma and some other places,” DiBenedetto said. “He’s good, he’s a champion and he’s one of the best. Chase (Elliott) and that 9 team, they are fast at this place and their cars have a lot of speed so it makes sense that they were up front. I think we could have gotten a few more positions if we had track position. Our speed was there, but it was hard to pass with the dirty air.”

DiBenedetto’s four top 10s are the most Leavine Family Racing has earned in its nine-year history, having claimed two twice. Before this year, only one of those top 10s had occurred at a track that wasn’t Daytona or Talladega.

Every good finish is good news for DiBenedetto, whose future with the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated team is uncertain with JGR and Toyota needing to figure out where Christopher Bell and Erik Jones will race next year.

“I’m just fighting for my life, my career,” DiBenedetto said. “I want to be the one who get Leavine Family Racing their first win and many wins to come and be with this organization and Toyota for a long time to come. That’s my goal, I’m just lucky to be doing it.”



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