Matt DiBenedetto is not immune to the rampant rumors that despite a breakout season with Leavine Family Racing, he could find himself out of job at the end of the season.
And yet, DiBenedetto keeps performing, especially during the second half.
“Guido”Â finished sixth on Sunday in the Go Bowling at The Glen, his fourth top-10 over the past seven races, easily the best stretch for the No. 95 team owned by outspoken car owner Bob Leavine.
The run of success began on June 23 when DiBenedetto finished fourth in the first road course race of the season at Sonoma Raceway. He finished eighth at Daytona over Independence Day weekend, a statement follow-up to his Daytona 500 run in which he led a race-high 49 laps.
He then finished 16th at Kentucky, fifth at Loudon, 17th at Pocono and now a sixth at Watkins Glen — all above average for the No. 95 team, both historically and based on where they were at the start of the season.
And heâs doing this facing the rumors that Joe Gibbs Racing may need to find a home at a Toyota team for either Erik Jones or Christopher Bell.
“Iâm fighting for my life,” he said. “Everybody knows. They see the headlines and the mess in the media. I hope I can stay with this team. I hope itâs for a long time.”
The latest result also comes a week after an outspoken DiBenedetto said that anyone would be foolish to replace him, believing that he gives the No. 95 team, as currently constructed, the best chance at posting above-average finishes.
And it’s worth mentioning that Leavine himself wants to retain DiBenedetto, but has also conceded that the business of the sport often supersedes his own wishes.
Guido has gelled with new crew chief Mike Wheeler, and appears poised to continue running inside the top-15 for the remainder of the season.
And most impressive to DiBenedetto himself is that the best results have come at tracks, like road courses and shorter tracks, where driver feedback and throttle control still matter, despite the 550hp package that has drivers flat footing on tracks larger than a mile.
“Iâm nothing without my team and how good of a race car I have,” he said. “They give me good race cars, and me as a driver, and us as a team can go back to using my feet to drive, which we donât do at some of the big tracks this year. Youâre using your feet to drive.
“Itâs fun just wheeling the heck out of a stock car, old school, beating off curbs. Itâs kinda my style. I grew up short track racing and thatâs what I love doing, slip-sliding around in a stock car.”
He hopes to slide around in the No. 95 for years to come, the garage rumors be damned.