RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Pocono 400
TRACK: Pocono Raceway
DRIVER: Matt DiBenedetto
CAR: No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota Camry
- Pocono Raceway is known on the circuit as "The Tricky Triangle," not only for the track's unique three-turn configuration, but because each of it's three turns provide three very unique challenges during a race weekend. With the new 2019 rules package in play, teams were not sure what to expect at the challenging track. Matt DiBenedetto and his No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance team were eager to unload and see what they could learn during the weekend's practices, but an engine issue at the end of the first practice forced the team to swap out motors and meant that they missed out on the final practice session. The team shook down their No. 95 Camry during Saturday's single-car qualifying session, but that was their only chance to get back on track before Sunday's race. After earning the 22nd starting position, DiBenedetto had to drop to the rear before the green flag, but he and his team fought back against adversity to earn a 17th-place finish at Pocono.
- Sunday's Pocono 400 took the green flag at 2:03 p.m. EST as DiBenedetto and his team knew there was only one way to go from where they started the race… forward. After having to start the race from the rear of the field, DiBenedetto made quick work of the opening lap of the race as his battled his way up to 25th. During the opening laps, he told his team that the No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Camry was loose and a "five to six loose" on the team's rating scale. Due to rain showers in the area overnight, NASCAR called for a competition caution following lap 20. Under the afternoon's first caution, DiBenedetto told crew chief Mike Wheeler that the No. 95 Camry "felt out of the track" and that he was "having to hang on to is and drive it around 40 percent." Wheeler discussed adjustments, and the team made several on their four-tire stop on lap 22.
- The race returned to green to begin lap 25 with DiBenedetto in 25th. Shortly after the restart, DiBenedetto told his team that the No. 95 Toyota Express Maintenance Camry seemed to have improved its balance following the adjustments. On lap 38, DiBenedetto told the team that the No. 95 was "getting tight off of (Turn) 3 and was difficult to pass."
- Stage 1 ended following lap 50 with DiBenedetto in 17th as he told Wheeler that the Toyota Express Maintenance Camry was "edgy in Turn 1 and tight off of Turn 3." Wheeler made the call for another four-tire stop with adjustments on lap 52 and DiBenedetto started Stage 2 lined up in 20th. During the restart laps, DiBenedetto got spun in Turn 2 but was able to limp his No. 95 Camry on to pit road even though it had four flat tires. The crew put on four new tires and quickly checked the car over for any damage. DiBenedetto lined up in 35th for the restart and a lap down to the leaders as the race returned to green to begin lap 61. The team caught a lucky break when a caution came out just a lap later after the No. 36 spun. DiBenedetto was the lucky dog which meant he got back onto the lead lap of the race in the caution that followed. Wheeler made the call for fuel, a wedge adjustment, and the chance to make sure nothing had been damaged on their Toyota Express Maintenance Camry and DiBenedetto restarted in 32nd.
- DiBenedetto worked his way back up to 25th before another caution came at lap 69 that allowed the team to continue to make adjustments to their Camry since DiBenedetto was still reporting tight-handling conditions. The race returned to green to begin lap 73, and by lap 95, the No. 95 Camry was up to 16th. Stage 2 came to an end following lap 100 with DiBenedetto scored in 11th at the time. Under the caution, the team serviced the Toyota Express Maintenance Camry with another four-tire stop, but the team was tagged with a safety violation when a tire got free during the stop. The penalty meant that DiBenedetto had to start from the rear of the field.
- Stage 3 began on lap 106 with the No. 95 in 27th, but by lap 119, DiBenedetto had cracked his was back into the top-20 as he took over 19th. Green-flag pit stops began to cycle starting the next lap and Wheeler checked in with his driver to see what the team could assist with on the next pit stop. DiBenedetto told the them that while his Camry was good in Turns 1 and 2, he was still a little tight off of Turn 3. Wheeler finally called his driver down pit road on lap 126 for a green-flag stop knowing that they could make it to the end of the race from that point.
- Once the field had cycled through their green-flag stops, DiBenedetto was running in 20th on lap 144 and he spent the remainder of the race fighting to steal back a few positions before the checkered flag waved following lap 160.
- Kyle Busch drove away with the win on Sunday at Pocono as he claimed his fourth series victory of the season for the No. 18 team. Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five finishers at "The Tricky Triangle," while DiBenedetto earned a 17th-place finish with his Toyota Express Maintenance Camry.
2019 No. 95 Season Summary:
Starts - 14
Wins - 0
Top 5's - 0
Top 10's - 0
Poles - 0
FireKeepers Casino 400
Michigan International Speedway (2.0-mile)
Sunday, June 9, 2019