Race Weekend Central

Matt DiBenedetto Talks NASCAR Return, Vision of Viking Motorsports

After spending the start of the 2024 season on the sidelines, Matt DiBenedetto is back behind the wheel with Viking Motorsports and the team’s No. 38 NASCAR Xfinity Series car. He made his first start of the season at Richmond Raceway, and the hope is for DiBenedetto to run all the ovals in the remainder of the 2024 Xfinity calendar.

I sat down with DiBenedetto at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12 to talk about his return to competition and the garage area, his past and upcoming starts with the team and the vision that team owner and SciAps CEO Don Sackett has for Viking Motorsports’ future.

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Stephen Stumpf: You’re returning to the NASCAR fields; I know you’ve also talked a lot about your faith. Can you describe the journey it’s been since your last start with Rackley WAR towards the end of last year and your first start with Viking Motorsports at Richmond Raceway?

Matt DiBenedetto: I’ve definitely had to learn over the last few years to trust in life’s process a lot more. I definitely dug a lot deeper into my faith and my walk with Christ, and it’s been an interesting journey to say the least for sure.

And that time, especially starting the year and watching the race season start and watching from the couch, it’s very difficult for sure. But yeah, I know everything works out exactly how it’s supposed to, and I’m just thankful for this opportunity that came about with Viking, this whole team and RSS Racing. Partnering with them and being the fourth car out of their stable and Don [Sackett] the owner of Viking Motorsports, their intentions and everything are so awesome.

In the meantime, I think just I have so much more gratitude for the simple things. There are so many things, man, we forget about. You forget to just love and enjoy and appreciate all the little things along the way. And I think I just have a whole lot more gratitude, and I’ve been humbled in life for a very good measure, and it allows me to just see a lot clearer and walk with more gratitude and joy as I get to do an opportunity like this.

Stumpf: When I texted with you a couple of weeks ago, you said that trying to run top 15 was your goal heading into this stint with Viking. You finished 18th in Richmond and 21st at Martinsville. How would you kind of grade your performance and the team’s performance so far with these first two races?

DiBenedetto: I think there’s been some positives to build off of. It’s all new. Smaller team, we’re growing, a lot of hard work, like, very hands-on hard work by our guys. I would call it some good success.

We’re learning each other, quickly building a little notebook and getting to know each other. I think the positives would be at Richmond, I think we could have finished top 15 there for sure; just got tight the last run. Had solid speed, we were racing around super good cars all day long. … That was encouraging.

Martinsville, we were just off and missed it. Had some tougher circumstances there, but still brought it home relatively in one piece.

Here, the goal will be definitely run up in the top 20. If we can get a top 15, I consider that as a win as we’re at what I would call the very ground level with this whole deal together. But we’re all in it for the big picture and growing this team.

Stumpf: You also told me that you love Don’s vision so far. What’s that chemistry like now that you have a couple of races under your belt?

DiBenedetto: It’s awesome. Don is such a nice guy. He loves the sport. It’s great from a sponsor aspect because they love what it’s done for their business and their company [SciAps] and bringing guests to the racetrack and all the activation on that side. They love the atmosphere and the dynamic of the sport because they’re like, ‘man, there’s no sport like NASCAR’. It’s so cool, and I call it a country club. It’s one big country club or family or whatever you want to call it. The dedication and loyalty from fans, all those things really brought them in to just fall in love with our sport for good reason.

I’m an all-in kind of guy to a fault in many ways, but I love the all-in nature, where Don and this Viking Motorsports group is all-in to what we’re doing here. [Don’s] very humble and he has the right vision, I think we’re all of one mind with one goal.

Stumpf: When I did speak to Don over the phone, he said that initially that your deal was for five races. I’m assuming [the deal’s] beyond that at this point?

DiBenedetto: Yeah, I’m glad to be in a position where I’m just kind of along for the ride and in it for the big picture and just all-in with Don and this team. Whatever fits the goals and the budget, I’m in, if that’s 15 races or all of them. So I think we would like to run all the races except for the road courses and start bumping this thing up in [owner] points.

[And] start thinking toward 2025 for Viking Motorsports and how to be in a solid points position when you go to Daytona next year.

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Stumpf: Next week at Talladega will mark your first start there since you won in 2022. Will that race feel like a homecoming of sorts?

DiBenedetto: For sure. I love Talladega and superspeedway racing. […] I’ll spend a lot of time with my spotter, Doug Campbell, and study and be prepared and that’s where I think some age experience, wisdom, those things can really play into our favor.

We can work with our four teammates. I’m thankful for Ford and Stewart-Haas [Racing], their alliance with Ryan [Sieg] and Roush-Yates [engines]. Obviously a great, great group here that we have to work with, so I’m excited to go to Talladega and work with everybody and put it up front.

Stumpf: Tell me more about your thoughts heading into Talladega and Dover and, like you said, how it’s such a huge benefit to have those RSS, SHR, have those alliances at Talladega when you need those friends.

DiBenedetto: Definitely. I know Ryan’s program is different than ours at Viking as we’re growing this thing. You go to Talladega though, we go there, we know we’ll have a good engine under the hood, which is incredibly important there, especially in the draft.

Having some good, some smart people in the Ford camp — although there’s not a lot of Fords out there in the field, there’s some good drivers in those Fords. I think we can all work together. I’m super excited to go there because I love the superspeedway racing. I won [and] we have been in a position to win many of them, so it’s a great opportunity for us.

Stumpf: At Talladega you’ll also have The Girl Who Recycled 1 Million Cans book on the hood. I’ll be talking about it sometime next week, and it also sounds like you’re going to be doing a little story time. Tell me how that deal came together and what it means to have it on the hood.

DiBenedetto: It’s special, special for Don, for our race team and everything, all the efforts that have been done by everybody. I’m excited to do a little studying this week on a book that I’m going to get to read to the kids next week. It’ll be neat to spend time with them, and it’s going to be special for everybody to have her and them on the car for next week.

There’s a big collective effort into it, so hopefully we can put them up front, preferably in victory lane.

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Stumpf: When I talked to Don, the No. 38 was all the ovals and no road courses, but he said they were still trying to find sponsorship for the two Darlington races. Have any inways been made there yet?

DiBenedetto: Not yet, but we’re working on it. It’s neat that it’s progressing pretty quick. I’m excited for Talladega, and that’s going to help a good bit. But yeah, right now just actively seeking partnerships to grow this team and grow the vision, turn this into what we wanted to make.

Stumpf: And then you also talked about not taking the little things for granted. How much fun [and] how much of a joy is it to be back in the garage week in and week out and see those familiar faces that you didn’t have those connections with at the start of the year?

DiBenedetto: A lot of times your struggles in life lead to blessings on the other side and gratitude on the other side. Just coming into the garage and seeing everybody, and not only from the crew and industry aside, just enjoying the relationships with everybody being here and then driving an Xfinity car, which are, in my opinion, some of the most fun cars to drive because they’re really hard to drive and they’re super fun.

But the fans, like, gosh, what a warm welcome from all the fans. They’re so awesome and just seeing them, they’re welcoming, I get in the racetrack and the support I get from them that from a fanbase who’s been with me through thick and thin and ups and downs and stuck by my side when I’m just like, ‘man, sometimes they shouldn’t.’ But it’s been so cool and humbling to have the support behind me that I do.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Something is always a bit off about Matty D.

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