Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Bluegreen Vacations 500
TRACK: ISM Raceway
DRIVER: Matt DiBenedetto
CAR: No. 95 Dumont JETS Toyota Camry
With just two races left in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Matt DiBenedetto and his No. 95 Dumont JETS team wanted to end the year with strong runs, especially at the last short track of the season at Phoenix. Handling was a challenge for the No. 95 throughout Sunday’s race as DiBenedetto fought tightness in his Camry as well as two flat tires, but the team worked on adjustments to their Dumont JETS Camry and were able to earn another top-15 run with a 13th-place finish in “The Valley of the Sun.”
Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 took the green flag at 12:44 p.m. MST to begin the 312-lap event. The first stage of the race was 75 laps as DiBenedetto rolled off from 16th in his No. 95 Dumont JETS Camry. On lap 15, DiBenedetto radioed into crew chief Mike Wheeler that his race car was “a little tight when I grab the throttle, and I’m also just stuck in traffic.” With track position mattering so much with the 2019 rules package, the tight-handling also meant that DiBenedetto couldn’t get his Dumont JETS Camry pointed exactly where he needed it to in Turns 1 and 2.
The first caution of the day came on lap 67 and it allowed DiBenedetto to chat with his team further about freeing up his No. 95 machine. Wheeler called his driver in for service under the yellow flag for four tires, fuel, air pressure and wedge adjustments, and the Dumont JETS Camry lined up in 16th for the restart with just a few laps remaining in the opening stage of the race.
Stage 1 ended following lap 75 with DiBenedetto scored in 15th as he told his team “It feels much better.” Wheeler told his driver to stay out under the caution since they had just pit before the end of the stage and teams had already varied their pit strategies. Stage 2 took the green to start lap 83 with DiBenedetto in 13th at the time. Tightness continued to challenge DiBenedetto during Stage 2 as he dipped back into 16th over the run as he told his team “it’s still too tight on the long run and we need to go a little further in that direction.”
Stage 2 ended following lap 150, and as the team prepared to come in for service, DiBenedetto told the team that his right-front tire was going down as he then carefully nursed the Dumont JETS Camry down pit road for a four-tire stop with adjustments.
Stage 3 took the green flag on lap 160 with DiBenedetto scored in 19th at the time. A caution at lap 166 allowed the team to come in for another four-tire stop and they kept working on loosening up their No. 95. As Stage 3 continued, DiBenedetto told his team “it’s still a little tight and I think it needs about half of that amount next time” as they discussed what adjustments might help.
Green-flag pit stops began to cycle starting around lap 232, and on lap 235, DiBenedetto radioed into his team that he had another right-front tire going down and had to hit pit road. The team serviced the Dumont JETS Camry with four tires and fuel as the field continued to cycle through their stops. By lap 255, DiBenedetto had cycled back into 13th after everyone had made their stops as he worked to maintain that track positioning for the remainder of the race.
Denny Hamlin dominated Sunday’s race at Phoenix leading for 143 laps as his victory punched his ticket into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend for the final race of the season. Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers at Phoenix while DiBenedetto crossed the line in 13th with his No. 95 Dumont JETS Camry. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Kevin Harvick are the four drivers who will battle to claim the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship next weekend.
2019 No. 95 Season Summary:
Starts - 35
Wins - 0
Top 5's - 3
Top 10's - 7
Poles - 0
Ford EcoBoost 400
Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile)
Sunday, November 17, 2019