By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS – Back to back third place efforts in both stages cash out valuable points for Matt DiBenedetto, but a loose lug nut on the final pit stop for the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet Silverado slotted him into a 12th place result.
“It was a really good truck,” DiBenedetto shared after the race. “It was just nice to see all the effort put in the offseason already starting the year off showing that we have good speed and good trucks. The Chevys are really good.
“I’m happy with what Rackley’s putting in, W.A.R. Shocks and NCS Car Wash, it takes every single one of these people to make this deal go around. That’s why we were able to run third in both those first two stages. We would have finished about seventh, and we had a big hiccup on that last pitstop. It ended up being 27 seconds, so we had a nightmare of a pitstop. It was just a mishap with the lug falling off.
“I wish I could have said we got a seventh; we stacked up to a sixth or seventh place truck. I’m pleased with the speed and really proud of the effort this team has put in.”
DiBenedetto dodged the chaos in the early stages and took advantage of track position and the misfortune of others to fight himself into a third place result for both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Each gave him eight points each in his championship hunt for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Early signs of speed after just the second round of the 2023 schedule give positive vibes across the team, especially with crew chief Chad Kendrick as they continue to learn each other’s racing language.
“I’ve been saying it all offseason that I really expect to turn a lot of heads this year and show that our team is a big step better this year,” he continued. “We owe a lot of credit to Chevrolet. I can’t thank them enough and Jerry Painter who does our bodies and aero. I knew it would take time, and it’s taken time for us to get there, but people are already seeing strides. We unload at Daytona and qualify eighth and had a rocket of a truck. We come here, finish third in both stages and probably would have had a seventh.”
But on the final pit stop of the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Presented by Westgate Resorts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a dropped lug nut delayed the pit stop longer than anticipated. It proved costly as DiBenedetto fought hard to stay on the lead lap. Race winner Kyle Busch attempted to pass high and got tight, then dove low a couple laps later for his second attempt only to have the truck break loose out of Turn 2. Neither competitor made contact, but Busch aired his frustration over the radio.
“That’s strike two. Kyle only gives two strikes,” Busch declared over the radio.
“We had a bad pit stop, and we were a sixth or seventh place truck, so it’s not like we were in the way,” DiBenedetto stated in his defense. “He had a half-track lead. I was racing respectful, I gave him a line, I wasn’t blocking all over the place. I’m racing for points. I like Kyle, he’s a good guy, but that’s a little ridiculous not understanding what I was doing there. If a caution comes out and if I’m being super nice and generous and just giving my lap away, that gives my whole race away. I was trying to recover from that mistake.
“I heard that he was audibly frustrated, and he almost drove into me, but I was giving him room and racing him clean so that’s just a little silly.”
That caution never came as DiBenedetto finished one lap down. Good news is that he scored the most stage points across the entire field and tied for the fifth most points in the field. Those points moved him five positions up in the driver’s championship standings where he sits eighth overall, 19 behind defending series champion Zane Smith.