The nightmare has finally ended for NASCAR fan favorite Matt DiBenedetto. 

Despite a career-year for the native Californian, DiBenedetto struggled for months to gain sponsorship and a permanent ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series going forward. Although fan support for the 28-year-old racer never faltered, Dibenedetto began to fear the end of his racing career—until he finally got the magic call.

When Paul Menard, current driver of the historic Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, announced last week that he intended to retire from full-time racing following the 2019 MENCS season, he told the Wood Family that he only had one driver in mind to replace him.

Following the career-changing news, DiBenedetto issued a grateful statement. “I am so excited about this opportunity to race for one of the most successful teams in NASCAR history beginning in 2020. The No. 21 Ford is one of the most accomplished and iconic cars in our sport and it will be an honor to join Wood Brothers Racing and help carry on the team’s tradition of success in NASCAR...”

Matt Dibenedetto has always been an endearing figure in the eyes of NASCAR fans, and the recent news of the young driver’s come-up has only added to the overall excitement surrounding his underdog story. 

“It’s definitely been interesting and crazy how in a couple weeks how much support you can gain,” DiBenedetto said regarding his rapidly growing fan base. “It’s amazing how much people have gravitated to this story and how much positive feedback there is in such a world where it can easily be negative. It’s amazing and heartwarming to see…”

Although DiBenedetto narrowly missed the Monster Energy Cup Playoffs this year, his late-season performance has still been impressive. This month alone, he’s finished well at some of the most difficult tracks on the NASCAR circuit. DiBenedetto took 8th place at Darlington Raceway and 18th place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and even led a handful of laps this past Sunday at Las Vegas before crossing the line in 21st.

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