Matt DiBenedetto celebrated his career-best fourth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma Raceway by thanking those who had given him the opportunity to run Cup and helped him with the road course.
DiBenedetto’s previous best in Cup was sixth at Bristol in April 2016.
“Proud of you man,” crew chief Mike Wheeler said to DiBenedetto on the team’s radio after the race.
The result also was DiBenedetto’s first top-10 finish of the season with Leavine Family Racing.
“This is a team effort,” DiBenedetto told FS1. “I’m so lucky to be doing this. My path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old school, I’m so thankful. I can’t tell you how many people took a chance on me.”
DiBenedetto noted the team’s sponsors, Toyota Racing Development, Leavine Family Racing, and others.
“All those people had to say yes and … take the chance on me,” he said. “I can’t explain how thankful I am.”
After thanking wife Taylor for her support, DiBenedetto also thanked NASCAR on NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger, saying: “This one is for my buddy AJ Allmendinger for helping me so much (with the road course).”
DiBenedetto started 19th and did not go for stage points. Instead, Wheeler had DiBenedetto pit before each of the first two stages to set the team up for the finish. DiBenedetto was sixth when the final stage began.
DiBenedetto pitted for the final time on Lap 65 of the 90-lap race, later than most. That put him outside the top 10 but gave him tires that were a few laps fresher than many of his competitors.
DiBenedetto used that to his advantage. He returned to the top 10 on Lap 70 after passing William Byron. Ten laps later, DiBenedetto moved into the top five by passing Jimmie Johnson. DiBenedetto passed Kevin Harvick for fourth on Lap 86 and stayed there to the finish for his best Cup result in 156 starts.