Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Pennzoil 400
TRACK: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
DRIVER: Matt DiBenedetto
CAR: No. 95 Dumont JETS Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 48 total points for the season; currently 24th in the driver point standings
NASCAR traveled west to Las Vegas, Nevada for the start of a three-week west coast swing this weekend and the full debut of the 2019 rules package. Last weekend at Atlanta, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams raced the new rules package but not in its entirety. This weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, teams ran the complete package with left the field entering the weekend not entirely sure how things would go. Matt DiBenedetto and his No. 95 Dumont JETS team participated in a test session at the 1.5-mile track back in January where there were able to learn some basics in regard to handling, but the race weekend left many curious as to how things would play out in race situations. After starting Sunday’s race from 26th, DiBenedetto and his team fought dirty air and track position the entire race and ultimately went on to finish 21st.
Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 took the green flag at 12:48 p.m. PST with the Dumont JETS Camry starting from 26th. On the opening laps, DiBenedetto was able to drive his way into 17th as he radioed in to crew chief Mike Wheeler that the No. 95 Toyota Camry was “a little tight to take off in traffic but is better now.” 15 laps into the run, the Dumont JETS Camry began to fade as the driver told his team that he wasn’t able to turn off of Turn 4 anymore. Falling further back into the dirty air associated with traffic wreaked havoc on drivers with the new aerodynamic package.
Green-flag pit stops began to cycle around lap 40, and Wheeler called his driver in for service on lap 45 for four tires and fuel along with an air pressure adjustment. On lap 60, DiBenedetto told his team that the Dumont JETS Camry was “still a little tight, but we’re going in a better direction though.” Stage 1 came to an end after lap 80 with DiBenedetto running in 22nd at the time. Under the caution, DiBenedetto told the team “it’s decent in clean air, but tight whenever I’m around anyone else. It’s just hard to race in traffic no matter what.”
Knowing how important clean air was, the team opted to stay out under the caution and take the wavearound hoping to have a shot at moving forward through the field. The race returned to green to begin Stage 2 on lap 88 with DiBenedetto in 21st. The No. 95 machine came in for four tires and fuel on lap 114 as the team was then on a varied pit strategy for that run. The Dumont JETS Camry was posting solid lap times throughout Stage 2 as DiBenedetto told his team that the car was “much better this run.”
Stage 2 came to an end following lap 160 with DiBenedetto in 21st as he told his team that his car was “a tiny bit free” to end the run. The team was in the lucky dog position, so the Dumont JETS Camry was able to get back onto the lead lap to begin Stage 3 after the team hit pit road for another four-tire stop.
The final stage of the race returned to green to begin lap 168 with DiBenedetto in 20th. By lap 187, DiBenedetto told Wheeler that the Dumont JETS Camry was “too tight to start, but it starts to come around as we run.” As the race went on, the No. 95 machine remained in 21st as DiBenedetto described the feeling of his car being out of the track in Turns 3 and 4. In the end, DiBenedetto crossed the line in 21st on Sunday at Las Vegas.
Joey Logano hit the jackpot on Sunday at Las Vegas as he drove away with the win while Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five finishers
2019 No. 95 Season Summary:
Starts - 3
Wins - 0
Top 5’s - 0
Top 10’s - 0
Poles - 0
Ticket Guardian 500
ISM Raceway (1.0-mile)
Sunday, March 10th, 2019