Matt DiBenedetto to run for Woods in 2021 before Austin Cindric takes over

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Matt DiBendetto will remain in the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing next season before Austin Cindric takes over the ride in 2022.

Team Penske, which has an alliance with Wood Brothers Racing, announced it had signed Cindric to a multi-year contract extension that will have Cindric run full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2021 and select Cup races before moving to Cup full-time in 2022 with Wood Brothers Racing.

Thursday’s announcement gives the 29-year-old DiBenedetto one more season with the Wood Brothers before looking for another ride. The announcement also means that Cindric will make his first full season in Cup when the Next Gen car debuts.

“It’s such an honor to be able to continue to drive for Wood Brothers Racing and have another year to grow with this organization,” DiBenedetto said in a statement. “I am excited to learn from our 2020 notebook and I’m confident that with a full season under our belt and working together as a team, we will produce even better results. I also want to thank Ford Performance and Team Penske for their efforts in making this happen. These types of decisions take a lot of time, as we all know there are a lot of factors in play. All three groups want to make the best decisions for everyone involved and I’m appreciative to have the opportunity to continue to compete for such a legendary race team.”

DiBenedetto made the playoffs for the first time this season but was eliminated in the first round. He’s tied his career high with three top-five finishes this season and has a career-best eight top 10s. He seeks his first career win. The next win for the Wood Brothers will be their 100th.

Car owner Roger Penske explained the plan for Cindric: “As we continue to position our team for future success, it is important to make sure Austin continues his development in the Xfinity Series with Team Penske. Austin has made great strides in recent years and he has become a consistent winner and a true championship contender this season. He will continue his natural progression and get some Cup Series experience in 2021. That will help him prepare for a full season in 2022 with the new NextGen car, racing the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing.”

The 22-year-old Cindric won the Xfinity regular season championship this season. He’s won five races this season heading into Saturday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC). He is 50 points above the cutline and has finished third in both previous series races there.

“This is a big step forward in my career long-term, and I am humbled and motivated by the opportunity and the confidence that Team Penske, Ford Performance, the Wood Brothers, and all of our partners have expressed in my abilities and my development as a driver,” Cindric said in a statement. “Every race car driver wants to advance in his career, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than on a clear path with Team Penske that will eventually lead to a full-time opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“I’m really excited for this next chapter in my development to continue working towards competing and trying to win at the highest level. Another season of experience in the Xfinity Series will be beneficial and I’m looking forward to competing in some Cup Series races in 2021 to prepare for a full season in 2022.”

Said Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook in a statement: “Our Ford Performance family is one of the strongest in the sport, and to know now that we will have a driver like Austin in our camp in both Xfinity and Cup is a very exciting prospect. He’s represented our brand so well this year by winning five races and being at the top of the standings, so we know he can get the job done. He’s also a great representative off the track and has helped us connect with an even younger fan base through some of our marketing initiatives. We are happy to see him remain with Team Penske and we are excited about his future with Ford Performance and the Wood Brothers.”