Matt DiBenedetto remained steadfast after another close call at his first Cup victory.
“Our day will come,” he told his team on the radio moments after he went from first to fifth on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
DiBenedetto repeated the phrase afterward. He seemed not trying to convince himself but others.
“Our day will definitely come, and pertaining to this race specifically, I’ll drive myself crazy if I just look back at it, replay exactly what happened and will never let myself live it down,” he said. “We did the best job we (could). Circumstances are crazy, especially with how big the runs are and all that, so it’s nothing to beat ourselves up over.
“We had a stage win and a good day, and I know that although my career has consisted of a lot of heartbreaks, our day will come. So I don’t look at (Sunday’s finish) in a negative way.”
Talladega is a track where leading on the last lap is almost something to fret with the runs that cars can make from behind with this rules package.
DiBenedetto knows that too well.
Sunday marked the second Talladega consecutive race DiBenedetto led on the final lap — he was leading in Turn 4 in last fall’s playoff race — and not won. A year ago, he crossed the finish line second but was penalized afterward for forcing another competitor below the yellow line and was credited with placing 21st.
This time, DiBenedetto led as the field came to the start/finish line to begin the final lap. He moved from the bottom lane to the top to block a run from Ryan Blaney, but that allowed eventual winner Brad Keselowski to be the lead car on the bottom lane.
“My focus and intention behind the wheel was picking up Ryan because he was a great pusher, a great help,” DiBenedetto said. “Obviously, Brad was really good too on the bottom, but Ryan had a run and a good push.
“I was actually just trying to pick him up and hoping we could get some steam and go to the front and take control of the race, get up there. So that was my intention and (that of) my spotter, Doug (Campbell). I put a lot of trust in him, and he called me to go to the top. I can only see so much, but I saw Ryan with a run, so I went up there to pick that up, but, really, ultimately, Ryan got spit out a little bit and drug back.”
The cars on the bottom line were closer together and building energy. DiBenedetto and Blaney had a gap to the next car behind, which was Tyler Reddick, in the middle lane. Reddick got a big run. Instead of pushing Blaney and DiBenedetto, Reddick pulled to the outside. Without anyone to push, Blaney fell back, exposing DiBenedetto without any help on the backstretch.
At that point, chaos reigned in the pack. DiBenedetto pulled in front of Reddick to get a push from the line of cars on the outside lane, but that left the middle open for Erik Jones to shoot in a gap and disrupt DiBenedetto’s momentum.
Extremely frustrated with myself on the last lap. It’s no secret that decision poorly affected the entire top line’s chance at winning the race. But that’s just another one I won’t get back. We will move on to Kansas. ✌🏼
— Tyler Reddick (@TylerReddick) April 25, 2021
In a matter of seconds, DiBenedetto went from running second on the backstretch to falling to fifth by the time the field was in Turn 3. Gone were DiBenedetto’s chances of winning without the leaders wrecking.
“The guys on the bottom lane are forced to stick together and keep pushing,” DiBenedetto said. “So, there are things obviously you’d always do over if you didn’t win this thing that you would change, but that’s pretty much for everybody, except for the winner.”