How eager is Matt DiBenedetto to drive a Joe Gibbs Racing car next week at Road America?
Enough to announce the deal himself Tuesday.Â
DiBenedetto, who is fighting for his future in NASCAR despite an impressive season with Leavine Family Racing, says heâll be in Gibbsâ No.18 Xfinity Series Toyota for the CTECH Manufacturing 180 the weekend of Aug. 24 at the 4-mile road course in Elkhart Lake.
The sponsorship agreement between iK-9 and driver Jeffrey Earnhardt fell apart last week, leading to some shuffling in the Gibbs lineup. Sports-car regular Jack Hawksworth was in the car last weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
DiBenedetto, 28, has notched his first two top-five finishes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season, the first of them a fourth place on the road course at Sonoma (California) Raceway. He is 23rd in Cup points.Â
Leavine had only two top-fives before this season, one with Michael McDowell in 2017 and one with Kasey Kahne last year. The team moved into an alliance with Gibbs and Toyota this season.
But DiBenedetto is caught in a numbers game in Cup, where Toyota has five seats. Gibbs has four drivers under contract â Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., whoâve won championships; Denny Hamlin, who is tight with sponsor FedEx; and promising, young Erik Jones â and is looking to move Christopher Bell up after two seasons in each the trucks and Xfinity.
Road America could be a chance for DiBenedetto to impress in a head-to-head matchup with Bell. James Davison led each of the past two Road America Xfinity raced and finished eighth last year.
DiBenedetto raced three times at Road America from 2010-14 with a top finish of 11th.
Toyota has not won at RA in the event’s nine-year history.Â
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is off next weekend, leaving the spotlight on road races for the Xfinity Series on Saturday at Road America and the Camping World Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on Sunday.