Matt DiBenedetto is getting the most out of his mobile plan.
Sometimes it’s through a rummy game with his teammates from Team Penske. Other times it’s in the text chain with Team Penske teammates where they share laughter over whatever is amusing.
In the COVID era, drivers and teams mostly communicate these days virtually. It’s changed the dynamic inside the race shops and even among teammates. Fortunately, texting will never go out of style, and DiBenedetto is never too far from those he needs.
“We have that kind of a great relationship with each other to where even if it’s not in person, we’re so comfortable with each other that a text or a phone call is no big deal for any questions I’ve had,” DiBenedetto said. “And for coming into this camp, the Wood Brothers camp, and our alliance with Team Penske, it’s been great to be so comfortable to be able to lean on them to make sure that I feel like I’m doing everything to the best of my ability and doing the best I can for our team.”
Whenever DiBenedetto is around the Penske group, whether in a competitive setting or personal time, he always ends up blown away by their leadership. It’s a positive environment.
The text includes five of them. There are the two former Cup Series champions in Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, playoff contender Ryan Blaney, and Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric. And Cindric joined the champion’s club in November.
Being among the group made DiBenedetto a better. In his first year with the No. 21 team, he earned a career-high in top-10 finishes, took a big step forward in improving his overall average finish, made the postseason for the first time, and finished inside the top 15 in the point standings (13th).
“They’re always looking at how we as a group can be the best we can be, be great leaders for our team and not negative and not whiners or anything like that,” continued DiBenedetto. “They all, and myself included, appreciate our jobs so much and what we do, so that attitude carries over to the entire organization. When you have that as your driver setting a great example, it affects the entire organization, so it’s really an incredible place.
“You see how respectful all the Team Penske drivers are. I hope you like me too. I feel like I’m not too bad of a guy, but it’s great to have those folks to lean on and to have and to go to for advice and to continue to want to get better, and we all lean on each other.”
DiBenedetto is “pretty pumped” for this season. Then again, it’s early February, and every driver thinks they’re going to be successful during the coming NASCAR season and that the sky is the limit. But for DiBenedetto, it’s based on the belief everything started to click for his team in the second half of last year, and the results started to change.
“That’s why you saw us clicking off top 10s consistently, running up front, competing for wins, because I felt like we were getting to where we needed to be as a team,” said DiBenedetto.
The 2021 season is DiBenedetto’s second and final year in the No. 21 Ford. It’s already been determined that Cindric will take over the car next year. Cindric, said DiBenedetto, is a great friend, and the two “literally Snapchat each other every single day.”
The ticking clock doesn’t faze DiBenedetto. One hundred percent of his focus is on the season and that elusive first win, one that would help secure his future and be a milestone 100 for the Woods’ team.
“It’s huge, and you’ve got to win and perform. That’s everything, but we’ve been so dang close now that it’s painful,” said DiBenedetto. “That’s a good sign when you have that momentum and you’re that close, and you’re in position as many times as we have been now. Knowing that we’re going into this season with the momentum that we have, I think we can do it much more consistently.”