Matt DiBenedetto shakes off ‘Dega near-miss, looks ahead to Kansas


On Thursday, Matt DiBenedetto told reporters that he had brought himself to watch his latest near-miss at Talladega Superspeedway.

But having done so, he’s not second-guessing his decisions on last Sunday’s final lap, where he led at the white flag only to finish fifth after being passed by eventual winner Brad Keselowski.

“(Ryan Blaney) kind of got shuffled and that line broke apart, so the circumstances could have been where it was, ‘Oh man, Matt. You made a great move taking that run and that momentum from the 12 car. You got shoved out, stayed out in the lead and won the race,'” DiBenedetto explained.

“You could be saying that same thing, so, no, I’m not beating myself up. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I’m like, ‘Oh, I wish I would have stayed on the bottom,’ because if I would have known that lane and all that momentum broke up on the back straightaway and (Tyler Reddick) pulled out of line and all of that, but I didn’t. So, no, I’m not beating myself up over it.”

Frustrating as it was to come close again to his first career Cup Series win, DiBenedetto and his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team still have momentum entering Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET, FS1).

Six straight finishes of 14th or better, along with a stage win at Talladega, have pushed DiBenedetto to within 12 points of the final playoff spot held by Chris Buescher.

Following the third race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, DiBenedetto was 34th in the standings and 53 points – nearly a full race’s worth – out of a playoff spot.

DiBenedetto finished a dismal 28th at Miami, but has since progressively bettered his results on 1.5-mile tracks: A hard-luck 16th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a steady 11th at Atlanta.

Out of those three tracks, Las Vegas is a more “standard” 1.5-mile track that’s similar to Kansas. And DiBenedetto’s performance in Vegas could be an indicator of what he’s capable of this Sunday.

In that race, he finished the opening stage in eighth after starting 30th on the grid. He maintained that top 10 speed throughout the day until his final pit stop, where an air gun failure compelled crew chief Greg Irwin to have him complete the race on three new tires and a heavily worn left-front tire.

But the No. 21 team’s luck has improved since then, and DiBenedetto is confident he’ll have the same speed in Kansas. And, unlike Vegas, he’ll get to roll off from a top five starting position.

“We have strong race cars pretty much everywhere, but I have a lot of confidence in the fact that we usually start with our setups pretty darn close,” he said. “Our engineers and team do a great job of starting close and it’s nice that we have the track position to go along with that, and we can start our day up front and be in front of the mess and hopefully, keep it up there and have a good, solid day.

“It’s a big deal. Even though I know it’s a long race, starting up front is a big deal on top of having fast cars on these mile-and-a-halves.”

Starting up front also means a great chance to score valuable stage points that can potentially move him into the top 16 of the playoff standings.

When asked if he felt extra pressure to make the most of that chance, DiBenedetto demurred, citing the various ups and downs of his career that he said have made him “almost numb” to pressure.

“We’ve gained so many points in such a short time and recovered at a level that I didn’t even know we could recover that quickly in such a short time, and we’re still on the up,” he continued.

“I feel like we’re just getting started, so instead of pressure, I probably look at it more as exciting like, ‘Heck yeah, we’ve got a top five starting position.’

“We’ve got great momentum. We’re putting together smooth races. We know we have fast race cars, a great team. All of that would probably be – right or wrong – that would just probably be my personal perspective in how I look at it and approach it.”

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Elliott’s car slapped the outside wall. Elliott’s car then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series results: Justin Allgaier wins at Charlotte


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier finally broke through for his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season Monday night.

Allgaier stretched his last fuel load over the final laps to finish in front of John Hunter Nemechek. Cole Custer was third, Austin Hill fourth and Ty Gibbs fifth. Gibbs ran both races Monday, completing 900 miles.

The win also was the first of the season for JR Motorsports.

Charlotte Xfinity results

Xfinity points after Charlotte

Justin Allgaier wins NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway


CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier won a fuel-mileage gamble to win Monday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Allgaier stretched his fuel to outlast second-place John Hunter Nemechek. Following in the top five were Cole Custer, Austin Hill and Ty Gibbs.

The victory was Allgaier’s first of the year and the first of the season for JR Motorsports. He has 20 career wins.

MORE: Charlotte Xfinity results

After a long day at CMS, the race ended at 11:25 p.m. The race started Monday morning but was stopped twice because of weather before it was halted with 48 of 200 laps completed so that the Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race could be run.

When the race was stopped, Gibbs, Nemechek and Allgaier were in the top three positions.

Gibbs won the first two stages.

Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs

Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs

Who had a good race: Justin Allgaier has had good cars in previous races but finally cashed in with a win Monday. He led 83 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek, in second, scored his fifth top-two run of the season. … Cole Custer scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. … Ty Gibbs lasted 900 miles for the day and led 52 laps in the Xfinity race.

Who had a bad race: Sam Mayer was running 10th when he spun off Turn 2. He finished 35th. … Sheldon Creed finished three laps down in 28th.

Next: The series moves on to Portland International Raceway in Oregon for a 4:30 p.m. ET race June 3.