Mid-Pack with Zach: Matt DiBenedetto, Leavine Family Racing

(Photo: Zach Catanzareti/KTT)

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Each week, Kickin’ The Tires will highlight the 20th-place finisher from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Standing as the middleman in weekends with 40-car fields, there is sure to be a story behind each one.

For the first time in 2019, we have a repeat driver in the mid-pack spotlight, as Matt DiBenedetto scored his second 20th-place finish of the season Monday at Dover International Speedway.

And unlike many top teams in the series, a top 20 is liable to bring smiles to Leavine Family Racing.

With the mid-pack team picking up fan-favorite DiBenedetto for 2019, the results have been consistent to those of 2018. The Californian’s average finish of 23.1 is nearly identical to the average finish of the team’s two drivers last year, with Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith combining for a 22.9.

Scoring his fourth top-20 finish in the Gander RV 400, DiBenedetto currently sits 25th in points, which would stand as the team’s highest championship finish if the season ended now.

Another area where LFR has seen strides is in qualifying — something that has been flipped around numerous times in 2019.

For the sixth time this year, DiBenedetto qualified 21st or better, keeping his average start at 21.4. For perspective, the team’s highest average start in Cup since 2011 is 23.9 is 2017.

For the weekend at Dover, NASCAR returned the time trial days of old, single-car qualifying around the 1-mile course. And with speeds crushing the track’s records, DiBenedetto was preparing to have some white-knuckles heading into the 400-mile race.

And the qualifying session turned out well, as DiBenedetto scored his best straight qualifying result of the year, starting 17th. His previous best of the season was ninth at Daytona, however, the Gander RV Duels at Daytona determine those starting positions opposed to qualifying.

Maintaining position between 18th and 22nd nearly all afternoon, the No. 95 Toyota overcame an early pit road penalty unedr yellow (crew member over wall too soon on lap 42) to come home 20th.

The finish was LFR’s fourth top-20 finish in nine starts at Dover.

Next up, DiBenedetto heads to Kansas Speedway where the team finished a highest of 13th in 2017.

Catch up on Mid-Pack with Zach HERE

List of 20th-Place Finishers in 2019

Daytona: Clint Bowyer
Atlanta: Daniel Hemric
Las Vegas: Austin Dillon
ISM: Matt Tifft
Auto Club: Paul Menard
Martinsville: Matt DiBenedetto
Texas: Chris Buescher
Bristol: Darrell Wallace Jr.
Richmond: Ryan Preece
Talladega: Martin Truex Jr.
Dover: Matt DiBenedetto[2]

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