Why does it seem like Matt DiBenedetto is always looking for a job?
Throughout his career, NASCAR’s preeminent underdog has been tossed from team to team with each stop seemingly lasting about as long as Aaron Rodgers’ stint with the New York Jets (too soon?). We all remember his heroic and emotional run at Bristol Motor Speedway with BK Racing. Then there was Go Fas Racing which saw him get the ax upon the team’s closure. And who could forget his highly publicized removals at Leavine Family Racing and Wood Brothers Racing, when drivers with funding ousted him?
But that has been the life of a driver who does not bring much funding of his own to the table. It is why his recent announcement regarding his departure from his current team raised eyebrows. Rackley W.A.R. is one of the very few teams in the sport that does not rely on driver-tied sponsorship. This is why the Truck Series team seemed like the ideal permanent landing spot for him, and it proved to be just that as DiBenedetto’s decision to drop down to Trucks greatly improved Rackley’s performance.
So, with DiBenedetto leaving the team after just two seasons without a confirmed ride next season (and the rest of this season following Rackley’s decision to release DiBenedetto early), we yet again have to ask if there is still room for him in NASCAR?
If the 32-year-old were indeed to stay in the sport, he would likely need to find the rare team like Rackley that has sufficient in-house sponsorship, or he’d need to quickly find personal funding to supplement what little he has. With that being said, let’s take a look some potential landing spots for him.
Kaulig Racing currently has a whopping four seats that have not had 2024 drivers announced. AJ Allmendinger is rumored to be back in the Cup lineup joining the already announced Daniel Hemric, but the team’s three Xfinity Series entries are wide open.
With team owner Matt Kaulig providing much of the sponsorship and DiBenedetto an Allmendinger-like veteran, the potential pairing could be the thing the team needs to rebound to the Xfinity powerhouse they once were.
DiBenedetto’s name has already been tossed around the Kaulig rumor mill. However, Kaulig has been rumored to be looking for drivers with more funding to help compensate its Cup program, so a potential Kaulig-DiBenedetto pairing is not set in stone.
DiBenedetto also has the option to remain in the Truck Series, and there is a truck team that has a major vacancy. With Carson Hocevar likely to move up the ladder next year, the No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet has an opening. As one of the premier seats in the series, this would likely be a viable landing spot, as Niece has historically been a loyal host for talented blue collar drivers like Ross Chastain, Bayley Currey and Kaden Honeycutt.
The team also has a great sponsorship deal with Worldwide Express as they grace the sides of two Niece entries all season. There is no word if the Texas-based company will be back next year ,but with its strong their connection to team owner and fellow Texan Al Niece as well as Cup driver Chastain, all signs suggest that it will be.
This could put DiBenedetto in a great position that would also keep him at Chevrolet, a year after he gave the bow tie brigade another entry in the playoffs.
With no announced 2024 plans for its current driver, Colby Howard, CR7 Motorsports is a single-truck team similar to that of Rackley. The team also has somewhat of a partnership with Kyle Busch Motorsports that could aid in DiBenedetto staying competitive.
With no word on CR7’s sponsorship situation, there is potential for him to end up in the No. 9.
McAnally Hilgeman Racing
There are some rumors that Jake Garcia may be departing the team at season’s end, meaning that there may be a need for a driver to flank Christian Eckes in the 2024 driver lineup at McAnally Hilgeman Racing. Like the open Niece entry, the No. 35 is an established competitive ride that would keep DiBenedetto in the Chevrolet camp.
A decision to hire DiBenedetto would give Eckes a veteran teammate that would only bolster the promising driver lineup. Team owner Bill McAnaly’s strong relationship with Napa Auto Parts and their vendors would be the answer for the sponsorship conundrum, as it was for Howard when he drove the truck (then the No. 91) in 2022.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s operation may be a true long shot for DiBenedetto, but there is an opening, and Junior has a soft spot for journeymen drivers. Sure, his name is at the bottom of the list of candidates for the lightly-sponsored No. 8, but hey, they said the same thing about the Wood Brothers ride too before he landed it.
The problem for the grizzled veteran is that he has joined a crowded field of free agents. The impending closure of GMS Racing has left several funded drivers on the sidelines. Why would a team like Niece choose DiBenedetto when it could have an influx of cash from a heavily funded and talented veteran like Grant Enfinger?
You also have to factor in Noah Gragson, who will likely land at one of the aforementioned rides. Trackhouse Racing will likely put development driver Shane Van Gisbergen in one of the Chevrolet seats too in a part-time stint.
We could go on and on. With all these factors, the circumstances begin to look bleak for him, but seriously, how many time’s have we seen DiBenedetto pull a rabbit out of a hat and somehow land in a ride? He will find a decent seat.
About the author
Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.
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