Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: The Matt DiBenedetto-Rackley Split is Odd

On Aug. 30, Matt DiBenedetto announced that he would depart from Rackley-Willie Allen Racing (commonly known as Rackley W.A.R.) at the end of the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season.

DiBenedetto has spent the last two seasons with the team, in which he notched his and the team’s first career Craftsman Truck Series win at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2022, and built on that momentum in 2023, as the team is currently in the midst of its very first playoff run.

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The announcement is quite a surprise for several reasons. DiBenedetto joined Rackley WAR after spending several seasons in the top echelon of NASCAR, the Cup Series, driving for BK Racing, Go Fas Racing, Leavine Family Racing and Wood Brothers Racing. His never-say-die attitude and stellar finishes with underfunded teams (three of which do not exist today) won over the hearts of many.

But a win was something DiBenedetto just couldn’t achieve, and after the 2021 season, DiBenedetto decided to take a step back and return to lower series racing to try to re-prove himself. In his two-year tenure with Rackley, DiBenedetto looked happier than he was in recent years in the Cup Series. His continued failure to produce wins despite his Cup Series success was taking a mental toll on him.

But then Rackley took a chance on DiBenedetto, signing him as its full-time driver after going through a rotation of drivers in 2021, including team owner Willie Allen, following the release of original full-time driver Timothy Peters. While 2022 wasn’t exactly an unforgettable year, the Talladega win launched them into what has been a remarkable 2023 season for the team’s standards.

Furthermore, DiBenedetto very much felt at home with Rackley, referring to the family-like atmosphere of the team. On multiple occasions, DiBenedetto called the move to Rackley a great decision, and has said how much he feels at home with the team based out of Centerville, Tenn. He also told Frontstretch that his quality of life had improved by joining the team.

So why leave?

What seems most baffling about the decision is DiBenedetto seemingly doesn’t have anything lined up after this season. With Rackley WAR arguably on the rise in the Truck Series, and with playoffs being the main focus right now, one might question why now was the time for DiBenedetto to not only leave the team, but also announce it in the midst of a playoff run. And its certainly worth questioning why one would leave a team with nothing allegedly lined up.

I guess the overarching question is, where do both parties go from here?

With the sudden announcement, both parties now have some work to do to compete in 2024. Though I feel like it will be easier for Rackley WAR to find another driver than it will be for DiBenedetto to find a team to compete with.

Since entering the Truck Series, Rackley WAR has never been in the business of picking up a rookie for its full-time ride. Before moving to a rotation of drivers, Peters, the original full-time driver, had 11 wins in the Truck Series with the now-defunct Red Horse Racing and soon-to-be-defunct GMS Racing, and was in the sport for 15 years at that point.

Even the drivers the team tabbed to fill in throughout had been in the sport for a while at that point. Josh Berry was in the midst of a part-time Xfinity Series season split between JR Motorsports and Jordan Anderson Racing. Brett Moffitt had been in competing in NASCAR since 2011 at that point, and team owner Allen made a handful of NASCAR starts in the late 2000s.

Even its second truck featured drivers with years of experience at that point. William Byron drove the No. 27 in the team’s home race at Nashville Superspeedway in 2021, and was already an Xfinity champion and Cup regular. Tate Fogleman attempted three races in the No. 26 in 2022, making one at Pocono Raceway. Fogleman had just upset the field at Talladega in 2021 with Young’s Motorsports notching his first career win and was a Truck Series regular since 2020.

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Then there’s DiBenedetto, who has spent almost as many years as Peters and Allen in the sport with several different teams. So should Rackley WAR go after a veteran again? Before last week, I would have said no.

But now Grant Enfinger is on the table, and I believe that would be a good pairing.

With the shutdown of GMS Racing at the end of the season, Enfinger does not have a ride for 2024. Rackley WAR could be a perfect home for him, as the veteran approach the team has taken, combined with its rise to prominence this season, could allow Enfinger to continue performing at his best in the Truck Series.

As for DiBenedetto, there are a couple options. Of course, there’s the vacant JR Motorsports No. 8 that Berry is leaving behind at the end of the season in the Xfinity Series. Or maybe another top-tier Truck Series ride for him, such as Zane Smith’s No. 38 or Carson Hocevar’s No. 42 that he could slide into for next season.

But my bet would be on Kaulig Racing’s vacant Cup Series ride that Justin Haley will leave behind following this season.

Kaulig team president Chris Rice told SiriusXM NASCAR that people would be surprised at what the team will do with the No. 31 car, and putting DiBenedetto in the car certainly would be a surprise. But DiBenedetto will likely need sponsorship for wherever he will go, as Rackley Roofing has sponsored almost every race he’s competed in, and that’s just because Rackley Roofing is 50% owner of Rackley-WAR.

But the DiBenedetto-Rackley split is just another piece of the 2024 silly season puzzle that has opened up, and it will be interesting to see how both parties respond to it in 2024.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Christopher

DiBenedetto is a career mid-pack racer. It’s not odd at all.

JT

Matt D probably will be a strong candidate for the Spire #77 seat. Spire’s recent, multi-year sponsorship deal with Gainsbridge Insurance will provide the funding for performance improvements for both the #7 and #77. In Matt’s Cup days he was a good, journeyman driver who took care of & got the most out of his equipment. I would not be surprised if he replaces Ty Dillon next season.

Dawg

Another possibility could be that Matt has already come up with enough sponsorship to give him leverage in finding a seat going forward.

RCFX1

Something is brewing. I think he learned from walking away from Go Fas without having anything lined up. He’s just playing close to the chest for now. I’m sure there’s an announcement coming up in the near future.

Rich

Rackley-War Racing is a GMS customer…they purchase all there trucks from GMS-Fabracation which is also closing at the end of the season…essentially Rackley-War will be a casualty of GMS leaving the truck series.

Expect similar announcements from MHR, Niece, and Henderson Motorsports as they are all GMS customers, that now have to find new trucks or cease operating.

gbvette

Somebody needs to explain the love affair that both the media and so many fans seem to have with DeBenedetto. I understand he’s likable, but the world’s full of likable people. What’s he ever done in a race car….one win in the truck series at Tallageda, a place where luck and still being around at the end, often has as much to with winning as shear speed and talent. He’s spent his career Cup career driving for under funded teams because those teams have to settle for the drivers the top tier teams don’t want.

Mac

The great part about Matt D is that he is 1)likable, 2)personable, 3)transparent, 4)a gentleman racer (he appreciates people racing him clean and comments positively when others do also…he isn’t a Denny Hamlin braggart and attention seeker), 5)humble, and 6)his fans follow him wherever he goes. People with transparent depth of character are hard to come by anymore. Matt doesn’t seem to mind putting it all out there whether it be the work-life balance, his dog Brian, or the constant everyday subtle example hints that we all should be keeping up our workouts and try to be healthy (mind, body, and soul). Lots of drivers try to hide, Matt doesn’t seem to have a fear of transparency or being an encouraging leader…and we all need more folks like that in sports and our society.

Steve

Curtis Sutton’s son will be moving up to the Truck Series. When Rackley WAR is footing the bill, the team owner’s son will be the driver. Matt D was forced out.

Kulprit

my guess is Kaulig in xfinity series. thought he might get a shot at legacy but that was taken yesterday

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