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Teen DiBenedetto Gets A New Car

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 24 2009
The highly successful No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series car will have a new driver at Memphis. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The highly successful No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series car will have a new driver at Memphis. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Millington, Tenn. – Joe Gibbs Racing will dip into its deep pool of driver talent today when Matt DiBenedetto makes his debut in the Nationwide Series in the Kroger on Track for the Cure 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park.

The 18-year-old DiBenedetto, a participant in the NASCAR Camping World East Series this year, gets the keys to the No. 20 Toyota, which has claimed five wins this season and currently sits fifth in owner points.

While substituting for Denny Hamlin in Nationwide practice in Dover, Del. last month, he backed the No. 20 Camry into the wall.

The freshman driver made certain not to commit the same blunder when he turned his first laps at Memphis during practice on Friday.

After slowly building up speed during the afternoon’s first practice session, he got up on the wheel and ripped off the fifth-fastest lap in happy hour.

“When I first came out, the main goal was to go out there and take it easy,” said DiBenedetto, who will run at least three Nationwide Series races for JGR in 2010. “No need to go out there and take any chances. So I just eased it up on speed.

“I’m just being calm with it all. The first practice was mostly me getting comfortable with the car and everything and the race track because I’ve never seen this place before.

“After that, second practice went out there and felt comfortable and made some big gains on the car.”

DiBenedetto’s talent caught the attention of JGR president J.D. Gibbs, who electronically tracked the youngster’s racing career.

“Last year, I was just racing some Late Model stuff for a couple of different teams,” DiBenedetto said. “I’d been in contact with JGR for quite some time, just e-mailing back and forth with J.D. and keeping him updated with how I was doing.

“They finally tested me at South Boston (Va.) in a Camping World East car and, obviously, that went really well. They believed in me enough to put me in some stuff for this year in their East program.

“I ran seven races and won two of them. I got two poles and we had a really good season. After I won my first race, they decided to give me the Memphis race here and make my (Nationwide) debut.”

DiBenedetto claims he doesn’t have a number in mind as far as where he needs to finish in today’s race.

“I came in here really with no expectations,” he said. “I figured that’s the easiest way, just come in with no pressure. Obviously, I’m in a great piece of equipment and they’ve put absolutely no pressure on me.

“They said, ‘go out there and give it 100 percent and that’s all we can ask for’.  That’s what I’m going to do.  Pretty much to see where it all falls and that’s all my expectations are for the weekend.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 24 2009
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