Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; STP 500
TRACK: Martinsville Speedway
DRIVER: Matt DiBenedetto
CAR: No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Camry
POINTS POSITION: 93 total points for the season; currently 24th in the driver point standings
After three weeks out West, NASCAR’s top series returned to the East Coast and made its first stop of the year to a half-mile track on the schedule Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Martinsville Speedway, also known as “The Half-Mile of Mayhem,” is a place where tempers can quickly flare as drivers fight for limited space throughout the entire race. Matt DiBenedetto and his No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance team had two practice sessions on Saturday prior to the team’s qualifying effort later that afternoon. The team started Sunday’s race from 21st, and despite some loose and tight-handling conditions, DiBenedetto was able to drive as high as 13th before finishing 20th. Prior to Sunday’s race, DiBenedetto’s best finish at Martinsville was 29th, so this weekend’s 20th-place finish was a career best for him in the series.
Sunday’s STP 500 began at 2:10 p.m. EST as the field took the green flag to start the 500-lap event. Early in the opening run, DiBenedetto radioed in to crew chief Mike Wheeler that the No. 95 machine was “loose in and loose off” and that there “just isn’t any grip.” The race’s first caution came at lap 65 and allowed Wheeler to further discuss a round of adjustments the team would make on their first stop of the day. After battling both “free in and free off” handling according to his driver, Wheeler opted for four tires, fuel, air pressure and a wedge adjustment. The race returned to green to begin lap 72 with the Toyota Express Maintenance Camry in 21st at the time.
On lap 92, DiBenedetto told his team that the No. 95 Camry had “started a little tight, but it’s free now.” As the race neared the end of Stage 1, Wheeler checked in with his driver to see what they could work on during the team’s next pit stop. DiBenedetto reported that his race car was “loose in, tight in the center, loose off, and I just don’t have much drive in or off.” Stage 1 ended with DiBenedetto in 22nd and the team made another four-tire stop with adjustments under the caution.
Stage 2 took the green flag to start lap 142, and by lap 170, the Toyota Express Maintenance Camry was up to 18th. DiBenedetto called in over the team radio on lap 174 that the changes had helped and that he needed more of them in that same direction on the team’s next stop. Despite the No. 95 being “still just a little loose” over the run, DiBenedetto drove his way into 13th before Stage 2 came to an end following lap 260. The team serviced their car with another four-tire stop and adjustments similar to the stop prior before Stage 3 took the green at lap 272.
By lap 289, DiBenedetto told the team “it feels good here, and obviously, the long run will feel better.” On lap 307, DiBenedetto reported that his Camry was “still a little too free, especially if I run anywhere besides the bottom.” A caution on lap 312 allowed Wheeler to bring his driver down pit road in order to help snug up the Toyota Express Maintenance Camry.
DiBenedetto restarted in 15th, and by lap 340, he told Wheeler that his No. 95 machine was tighter that run. The Toyota Express Camry settled into 17th as the stage went on and DiBenedetto told the team that it needed to “take off faster and better.” A caution at lap 445 let the team make one more pit stop for four tires and fuel. As the laps ran down in the final run, DiBenedetto dipped back into 19th and eventually crossed the line in 20th.
Brad Keselowski dominated Sunday at Martinsville as he swept all three Stages and led for a total of 446 laps on his way to the victory. It was Keselowski’s second win of the 2019 season in the series. Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin were the top-five finishers at Martinsville, while DiBenedetto’s top-20 finish was his career-best at the track.
2019 No. 95 Season Summary:
Starts - 6
Wins - 0
Top 5’s - 0
Top 10’s - 0
Poles - 0
O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile)
Fort Worth, TX
Sunday, March 31st, 2019